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Space business and exploration
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The biggest space missions and rocket launches we'll see in 2018

The biggest space missions and rocket launches we'll see in 2018 | Space business and exploration |

Next year is already overflowing with exciting missions to space. NASA is launching a new lander to Mars, as well as a spacecraft that will get closer to the Sun than ever before. And two of NASA’s vehicles already in space will finally arrive at their intended targets: one will rendezvous with a nearby asteroid, while another will pass by a distant space rock billions of miles from Earth.
"Next year is already overflowing"

But it’s not just NASA that has a busy year ahead; the commercial space industry has a number of significant test flights planned, and the launch of one of the world’s most anticipated rockets, the Falcon Heavy, is slated for early 2018. And if all goes well, people may finally ride to space on private vehicles.

Here are all the missions and tests we’re looking forward to in 2018 and when you can expect to see them take off.
January 2018: Falcon Heavy launch

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced plans for the giant Falcon Heavy rocket in 2011 — a vehicle consisting of three reusable Falcon 9 rocket cores strapped together. Originally, the Falcon Heavy was due to launch in late 2013, but the vehicle’s inaugural flight has been consistently pushed back. In July, Musk admitted that engineering the rocket has been harder than expected.

Now, five years after the launch’s original target date, the Falcon Heavy’s flight seems imminent. Musk tweeted out pictures of the rocket almost fully assembled at Cape Canaveral, Florida, where it’s due to start its maiden voyage. The payload for the mission — Musk’s red Tesla roadster — has been enclosed in the rocket’s nose cone. Now all that’s left is to test fire the rocket and then actually launch it. SpaceX claims all of this will happen in January. Whenever the vehicle does get off the ground, it’s guaranteed to be one of the most watched flights in years.
Early 2018: Rocket Lab test launch

US spaceflight startup Rocket Lab is still testing out its experimental rocket, the Electron, designed to send small satellites into orbit. There was already one test flight in May, though the rocket didn’t achieve orbit. Rocket Lab intended to do a second test flight in December, but the weather and some technical snags prevented the launch. Now, the company plans to launch again in early 2018, and if the flight goes well, Rocket Lab may stop test flights and go straight to commercial missions.
Rocket Lab’s Electron test rocket on the company’s New Zealand launch pad. Image: Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab launches out of its own facility on a remote cliff in New Zealand. And the company plans to livestream this mission, too.
March 31st, 2018: Deadline for Google Lunar X Prize competition

Finally, we’ll find out which of the five remaining teams in the Google Lunar X Prize will complete their mission to the Moon before March 31st, 2018, the competition’s deadline — and the answer may be none. To win, a robotic spacecraft must land and explore the Moon. The first team to reach the lunar surface and complete all of the contest’s requirements before the deadline will receive a grand prize purse of $20 million.
"It doesn’t seem likely that anyone will actually launch before the deadline"

However, it doesn’t seem likely that anyone will even launch before the deadline. Four of the five finalist teams have yet to complete their landers, and two still aren’t fully funded. A fifth team — Hakuto from Japan — has completed its lunar rover, but the vehicle is meant to ride to the Moon on another team’s unfinished lander. It’s unlikely we’ll see any X Prize missions before the deadline at all.
March 2018: TESS launch

NASA’s next exoplanet-hunting spacecraft, TESS, is going up this year. Like the space agency’s Kepler probe, TESS will look for planets as they pass in front of distant stars and slightly dim the stars’ light. But TESS will study stars throughout the entire night sky, expanding Kepler’s limited range. The plan is for TESS to find the closest rocky exoplanets to Earth, so that astronomers can figure out the types of atmospheres these worlds have and if they can potentially host life. TESS’s launch is currently planned for no earlier than March and no later than June on top of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

April – November: Commercial Crew test flights

This year could be the first test of two vehicles that are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the space agency’s initiative to launch astronauts on privately made spacecraft. Both SpaceX and Boeing have been developing capsules to carry passengers to the space station — the Crew Dragon and CST-100 Starliner, respectively. SpaceX is scheduled to do an uncrewed test flight of the Dragon capsule in April, followed by the first crewed flight test in August. Boeing is targeting August for an uncrewed flight of the Starliner and a crewed flight for November.
An artistic rendering of Boeing’s Starliner in space. Image: Boeing

These test flights were originally scheduled for 2017, though, and it’s possible that they’ll be delayed again. In fact, the Government Accountability Office thinks that astronauts probably won’t fly on SpaceX or Boeing vehicles until 2019. The target dates stand for now, and Musk says he is confident the company will fly people in 2018.
All year: Testing at Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic

Many other commercial space companies will likely do big test flights of their own in 2018, too. Just before the end of 2017, Blue Origin pulled off another launch and landing of its New Shepard — a rocket designed to take paying customers to space to experience a few minutes of weightlessness. Testing should continue into the new year, and it’s possible test pilots will start flying on board the rocket in 2018.
Blue Origin’s New Shepard successfully landing after a flight test. Image: Blue Origin

Meanwhile, fellow space tourism company Virgin Galactic should soon begin powered test flights of its spaceplane, VSS Unity, which is also designed to give passengers a short weightless experience in space. The company has been taking it slow with this vehicle, though. Virgin Galactic’s last powered test with Unity’s predecessor, VSS Enterprise, ended in failure: a test pilot was killed and the spacecraft was destroyed. So the company has only done a few unpowered glide flights with Unity since the vehicle’s debut in 2016. But Virgin has been preparing to ignite the spaceplane’s engine, and this may be the year.
The VSS Unity on one of its glide flights. Image: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic’s offshoot company, Virgin Orbit, also has big plans for the new year. The company has been developing a rocket launcher, which is designed to drop from the wing of an airplane, and then ignite — putting small satellites into orbit. The first test flight of the rocket could happen in early 2018, according to a vice president for Virgin Orbit.
May 5th, 2018: Launch of NASA’s InSight Mars lander

NASA’s InSight spacecraft is designed to land on the surface of Mars, where it will study the interior of the Red Planet and figure out how the world formed billions of years ago. The lander was originally supposed to launch in 2016, but the mission was delayed after a leak was spotted in one of the spacecraft’s instruments. Now the instrument, meant to analyze quakes on Mars, is fixed and the spacecraft is nearly ready for its trip. InSight’s launch on top of an Atlas V rocket is planned for sometime within a 30-day launch window that opens on May 5th. It should land on Mars around seven months later, on November 26th.
An artistic rendering of NASA’s InSight lander. Image: NASA
July 31st – August 19th: Launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is being hailed as the first spacecraft that will “touch” the Sun, though it won’t actually plunge into the Sun’s surface. Instead, it’ll be a mere 3.9 million miles away from the solar surface, flying through the outer edges of the Sun’s atmosphere.

That will allow the spacecraft to study the origins of something called solar wind, streams of highly energetic particles that are ejected from the Sun’s atmosphere at super high speeds. Solar wind often zooms past Earth and can mess with our planet’s magnetic field, causing interference with our satellites and even our electrical grid. The Parker Solar Probe is meant to tell NASA how these particles get so sped up — a question that scientists have had for decades.

The probe is scheduled to launch on top of a Delta IV Heavy rocket sometime between July 31st and August 19th.
August 2018: NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft arrives at an asteroid

In September 2016, NASA launched its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft, sending the probe on a journey to grab a sample from an asteroid named Bennu. The trip to Bennu takes about two years, though — so finally, in August, the spacecraft will “arrive” at the asteroid, coming within 1.2 million miles of the rock. OSIRIS-REx will then use its onboard engines to move closer and fly in formation with the asteroid.
An artistic rendering of OSIRIS-REx arriving at Bennu. Image: NASA

After that, it will be a while before the spacecraft grabs its sample. In October, OSIRIS-REx will begin a year-long survey of Bennu, mapping out the asteroid’s surface to find the best place to scoop up rocks. OSIRIS-REx does have a set of cameras on board so we might get some high-resolution pics of Bennu in the meantime.
October 2018: Launch of BepiColombo to Mercury

A new mission to Mercury, the least explored planet in our Solar System, is on the calendar: BepiColombo, a joint project between Europe and Japan, will send two spacecraft into orbit around the closest planet to the Sun. The spacecraft are set to launch combined on top of a European Ariane 5 rocket in October and will arrive at Mercury in 2025. Once in orbit, the two spacecraft will separate, with Europe taking control of one and Japan taking control of the other. Together, the two vehicles will analyze as much as possible about Mercury — from the planet’s magnetic field to its surface and interior.
November 26th: InSight lands on Mars

After its journey through space, InSight will arrive at Mars and land on its surface on November 26th. But landing on the Red Planet is tough: Mars has a very thin atmosphere, which provides little cushion to slow incoming spacecraft. Many other Mars-bound spacecraft have come in too fast during landing attempts and created new craters on the planet’s surface, like Europe and Russia’s ExoMars lander did in 2016.
"Landing on the Red Planet is tough"

InSight will use a combination of parachutes and onboard engines to gently lower itself down to the Martian surface. The entire landing will last just seven minutes, and if it’s successful, the spacecraft will spend the next two years studying Mars and its interior.
January 1st, 2019: NASA’s New Horizons flies by a distant icy space rock

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has been traveling even farther out into the Solar System after its encounter with Pluto in 2015. Early in the morning on New Year’s Day, the probe will fly by a small rock in the Kuiper Belt — the large cloud of icy bodies that orbit beyond Neptune. This is a first: no human crafts have ever visited one of these objects. New Horizons’ target is a rock dubbed 2014 MU69, though it’s possible that the object is actually two rocks orbiting close together. And the science team thinks the rock (or rocks) may even have a moon. We’ll know for sure when New Horizons flies by around 12:30AM ET on January 1st.

Yes, technically that’s in 2019, but it’s going to be the perfect way to cap off a busy year in space.

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How the world is imbibing advancements in space policies and actions

How the world is imbibing advancements in space policies and actions | Space business and exploration |
The capacity to look at the Earth every single day impacts a lot of businesses. To enable the space industry become a better contributor, the major players world over are working towards creating stronger policies, and the not so big players are eagerly joining the bandwagon.

Space data and services have become an indispensable part of daily lives. The overall international space context is changing fast: competition is increasing; new entrants are bringing challenges and new ambitions in space; space activities are becoming increasingly commercial with greater private sector involvement; and major technological shifts are disrupting traditional industrial and business models in the sector, reducing the cost of accessing and using space. To keep pace in this changing scenario and excel in new space ventures, countries world over are modifying their space policies and strategies; the goal remains more or less same for all: to be a leader in Space.
The American space policy – Always ready for change

The Trump administration has been taking significant steps to reorient the American space policy. On June 30, 2017, US President Donald Trump revived the National Space Council for the first time in 24 years. Then on December 11, 2017, he signed the Space Policy Directive – 1, which calls on NASA to focus on the human exploration of Mars and other parts of the solar system.
US President Donald Trump signs the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017

The policy aims to more effectively organize government, private industry, and international efforts toward human exploration of Mars.

However, the administration has totally shifted its focus from earth observation. Donald Trump’s proposed 2018 budget intends to cut four NASA Earth science missions. These include the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite; the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-3 (OCO-3) experiment, the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder and the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR).

On April 16, 2018 Vice President Mike Pence also announced a new space traffic management that gave the Commerce Department, and not the FAA, the responsibility for providing space situational awareness data to satellite operators.

This new policy directs the Department of Commerce to provide a basic level of space situational awareness for public and private use. The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an increased budget to the Federal Aviation Administration office that licenses commercial launches. For the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation or AST the Bill provides $24.981 million. That is an increase of nearly $2.4 million over what AST received in fiscal year 2018, and $3.4 million above the administration’s request. The House offered $24.917 million for AST in a bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee May 23.

Taking things further, the Trump administration is all set to unveil the new National Space Strategy. On March 23, 2018, the administration released a brief of the same. The new strategy prioritizes American interests first and foremost. As per the strategy, the United States will partner with the commercial sector to ensure that American companies remain world leaders in space technology.

Also the House Science, Space and Technology Committee has adopted Chairman Lamar Smith’s American Space SAFE Management Act , which would transfer key responsibilities for space traffic management from the Pentagon to the Commerce Department.
Donald Trump has also recently directed the Pentagon to create a special ‘Space Force’ as an independent branch of the US military to ensure the safety of US spacecraft and astronauts. The concern is that such a step could ignite an arms race in outer space.
How is EU coping up?

In October 2016, the European Union’s executive commission unveiled a new space strategy, the focus of which is to use public investment to stimulate the creation of space start-ups. The U.K. plans to become a haven for space start-ups from all over the world as it aims to grow its space industry to control 10% of the global market by 2030.
Space in EU primarily means Galileo and Copernicus. Galileo is the European Union’s Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS), sometimes called the ’European GPS‘. Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, looking at our planet and its environment for the ultimate benefit of all European citizens.
Mission Control Room of ESA at ESOC in Darmstadt, Germany.

The European Commission aims to build a sustainable space economy. The new strategy specifically mentions the Investment Plan for Europe and an upcoming vehicle called the Venture Capital Fund of Funds as sources of financial support for space ventures. The major beneficiaries of the commission’s space budget of 12 billion euros ($13.5 billion) between 2014 and 2020 will be the 30 satellites that the EU plans to launch in the coming decade for the Galileo navigation and Copernicus environment-monitoring programs.
Additionally, the NewSpace strategy aims to develop a comprehensive EU Space Situational Awareness Service to protect critical space infrastructure from space debris, space weather and cyberattacks.

The Commission has also restated its support for a GovSatCom program that in principle would collate the military satellite telecommunications requirements of EU nations.
The new space strategy clearly indicates Europe’s eagerness to excel in new space ventures. Many member countries of the EU have their own space agencies with France and Germany being the two biggest players.
UK — All geared up to embrace developments

Brexit pushes UK to strengthen its own standing in space. Consequently, the UK government is seen to be making more efforts to create a regulatory framework for the expansion of commercial space activities and the development of a UK space port. It has now drafted The Space Industry Bill, which intends to cover both orbital and sub-orbital activities, and horizontal and vertical launches carried out in the UK.

The Space Industry Bill is aimed to enable the first commercial space launch from UK soil. The passing of the Bill indicates that British businesses will soon be able to compete in the commercial space race using UK spaceports. UK is already a global hub for satellite manufacturing, operation and application development.

With one in four of all telecom satellites substantially built in Britain and UK businesses at the forefront of hypersonic flight technology, through its Industrial Strategy, the government is working with the industry to increase its global share of the space sector from 6.5% to 10% by 2030.

If UK can build its own spaceports, it will also be able to tap into the rapidly expanding launch market — worth an estimated £10 billion over the next decade. Satellite services already support more than £250 billion of GDP in the wider UK economy as well as products and services we all rely on.

Currently, UK firms rely on a limited supply of launches in other countries which leaves them vulnerable to launch delays. The Space Industry Bill will help to increase the supply of launch services closer to home, and capture a share of growing global launch demand. This will open up the UK to new frontiers, transforming the way they live, and establishing than as a space flight leader.
Russia takes the leap through its 10-year space strategy

Though it is still a far cry from its glorious past, Russia’s intent to create a mark in new space ventures is clear from its approval of the 10-year space program worth 1.406 trillion rubles ($20.5 billion). The space strategy is known as the Federal Space Program 2016-2025.

As per the new strategy, Roskosmos has streamlined its large and disparate fleet of launch vehicles from eight to just two families: Soyuz and Angara. Only six variations of these two types of rockets will remain instead of current 12. Also, the Russian orbital assets will grow from the current 49 operational spacecraft to 73 by the end of the projected period in 2025.

The first priority for the program is communications and broadcasting satellites. According to the head of Roskosmos Igor Komarov, the Russian constellation of communications satellites will grow from 32 to 41 under the projected funding. The bandwidth of the communications channels carried through space was promised to increase 1.3 times and broadcasting capabilities would grow 3.3 times. In the meantime, Russia’s “eyes in the sky” and other remote-sensing satellites will multiply from eight to 23 during the same period.

In the field of human space flight, the Kremlin still promises to complete the assembly of the Russian segment of the International Space Station, which has remained unfinished since the turn of this century. Also, according to the approved strategy, Moscow still remains committed to shifting human space launches from Baikonur in Kazakhstan, to the new spaceport in Vostochny in the Russian Far East. Such a move would require a new launch pad for the human-rated version of the Angara rocket. The new facility is promised to be ready in 2021.

Komarov promised to launch the unscrewed prototype of the Soyuz replacement in 2021 and to send the first crew to the ISS aboard the new ship in 2023. The Moon landing still remains the strategic goal of the Russian human space flight but with a tentative launch date in 2030, or five years beyond FKP-2025.

Still, Roskosmos pledged to go ahead with its robotic lunar probes, which include progressively more complex orbiting and landing missions. A pair of astrophysics research satellites also made it into the program. The Spektr-RG X-ray observatory and the Spektr-UF ultraviolet telescope are scheduled for launch in 2017 and 2021, respectively.
In case the Russian economy improves in the years to come, the space budget will grow accordingly. Banking on the better days ahead, FKP-2025 reserved an entitlement for an additional 115 billion rubles after 2022.
China is in no mood to lag behind

The Chinese government takes the space industry as an important part of the nation’s overall development strategy, and adheres to the principle of exploration and utilization of outer space for peaceful purposes. Over the past 60 years of remarkable development since its space industry was established in 1956, China has made great achievements in this sphere, including the development of atomic and hydrogen bombs, missiles, man-made satellites, manned spaceflight and lunar probe. It has opened up a path of self-reliance and independent innovation, and has created the spirit of China’s space industry. It has opened up a path of self-reliance and independent innovation, and has created the spirit of China’s space industry.

Keeping in view the advancements in space technology, in December 2016, China released a white paper, titled “China’s Space Activities in 2016, detailing its plans to expand the “strength and size” of its space program. The nation plans to increase the estimated $6 billion per year it currently invests in space activities, in order to fund numerous proposed initiatives. The plan outlines a robotic lunar program made up of several missions.

In addition, China’s BeiDou navigation system is on course to provide global coverage using 35 satellites by 2020. The navigation system will complement the marine and land trade routes initiative of the Chinese government’s ‘One Belt, One Road’, covering most of the globe with heavy investment on the routes and associated industries. Most member countries of the route, and developing economies, will easily adapt to the BeiDou system and other Chinese space initiatives. The whitepaper mentions in ‘Key areas for future cooperation’; ‘Construction of the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor, including earth observation, communications and broadcasting, navigation and positioning, and other types of satellite-related development; ground and application system construction; and application product development’.

The ‘Space Information Corridor’ is a broad term for a bouquet of potential multidimensional services of variable magnitudes.
China is also looking towards the establishment of a permanent manned space station by 2022.

China also intends to have its own Space Law in 2020. China encourages and supports Chinese enterprises to participate in international commercial activities in the space field. It has exported satellites and made in-orbit delivery of Nigeria’s communications satellite, Venezuela’s remote-sensing satellite-1, Bolivia’s communications satellite, Laos’ communications satellite-1 and Belarus’ communications satellite-1. In addition, it provided commercial launch service for Turkey’s Gokturk-2 earth observation satellite, and when launching its own satellites took on small satellites for Ecuador, Argentina, Poland, Luxembourg and other countries. It has also provided business services concerning space information. In the next five years China will, with a more active and open attitude, conduct extensive international exchanges and cooperation.
Is India ready to adopt a broader approach?

In case of India, everything related to space is governed by ISRO. Be it the Satcom policy, 1997 or the Remote sensing policy, 2011. The fundamental aim of the Satcom Policy Framework for Satellite Communications in India approved by the Cabinet is to develop a healthy and thriving communications satellite and ground equipment industry as well as satellite communications service industry in India. Also, use and further development of the capabilities built in India in the area of satellites, launch vehicles and ground equipment design and sustaining these capabilities is an equally important aim. Encouraging the private sector investment in the space industry in India and attracting foreign investments in this area are other specific goals.

Recognizing that Remote Sensing data provides much essential and critical
information, which is an input for developmental activities at different levels, and is also of benefit to society, the government has adopted the Remote Sensing Data Policy (RSDP) -2011 containing modalities for managing and/ or permitting the acquisition/dissemination of remote sensing data in support of developmental activities.
To make effective use of the advancements in space technology for citizens’ benefit, the country needs to encourage both the public and private sectors to participate in the space program. With this aim, India is drafting a new Space bill. The new Bill encourages the participation of non-governmental/private sector agencies in space activities in India under the guidance and authorization of the government through the Department of Space.

The main aim of the draft is to open up the space for participation from other sectors. It may help to break the monopoly of ISRO in Space activities in India.
Space development in Japan — governed by security concerns

On April 1, 2016, the Office of National Space Policy (ONSP) released the fourth Basic Plan (Basic Plan 4), which for the first time has made space policy an important part of Japanese security planning. Basic Plan 4 explicitly supports the goal of advancing the operational integration of space technologies and programs in service of US-Japan security alliance. The Plan recognizes space as a strategic domain for national security.
Basic Plan 4 also represents Japan’s first implementation policy that openly states that Japan must actively develop a national security space program with the military use of space in tune with the new National Security Strategy (NSS). In terms of core security components, the plan focuses on key space-based programs. Primarily these include: doubling the number of satellites in Japan’s information-gathering satellite (IGS) reconnaissance satellite constellation, developing a space-based maritime domain awareness capability, enhancing space situational awareness capabilities and linking Japan’s space assets in the service of US security strategy to support the allies’ deterrence capabilities.

The Basic Plan 4 is a welcoming change as Japan’s space policy has for long, almost 40 years stayed away from any involvement in national security. The new policy is designed to achieve a stronger alliance with US.
A new Canadian space strategy is on the way

As per the Canadian Space Policy Framework 2014, the Canadian Government is committed to ensure that Canada is a sought-after partner in the international space exploration missions that serve Canada’s national interests.

The policy framework clearly indicates that national sovereignty, security and prosperity are the key drivers of Canada’s activities in space. I

The Government focuses on supporting the domestic space industry in the innovation required to bring to market cutting-edge technologies. The Government looks to continue partnerships with international partners to pool data for mutual benefit and obtain services and technologies that would otherwise be unavailable. At the same time, effective export control and regulatory measures will continue to protect Canadian technologies and data from theft or from falling into the hands of hostile interests.
Canada is soon going to have a new space strategy. The Canadian government has recently announced an investment of more than $26.7-million in space technology through the Space Technology Development Program (STDP). The funds allocated in this round of the STDP included $3.4 million for space research and development by small businesses.

The capacity to look at Earth every single day impacts a lot of businesses. The world is gaining an understanding that the space industry is actually about life on Earth and businesses on Earth, and they can help in numerous ways. To enable the space industry become a better contributor, the major player’s world over are working towards creating stronger policies, and the not so big players are eagerly joining the bandwagon.
Not so big players are also gaining momentum

UAE — Gaining momentum
In 2016, UAE launched its national space policy. The Policy focuses towards expanding the utilization of space to protect and support vital sectors. It aims to achieve this by identifying the capabilities and competencies needed to support the space sector. The Policy seeks to promote space-related scientific programs and projects. This includes the planning and execution of both sole and cooperative space missions; the procurement and development of capabilities for space exploration and earth observation; the encouragement of scientific research and development of programs, which will strengthen and utilize the UAE’s space capabilities and technology. Along with providing national organizations guidance specific to their role and contribution to the space sector, the National Space Policy identifies fundamental success factors required for the policy’s successful execution.

Brazil — Prioritizing Space
The 1994 Brazilian National Policy for the Development of Space Activities set as a strategic goal the development of national space technology capabilities. The main current policy instrument is the National Programme of Space Activities 2012-2021 (PNAE 2012-2021). It identifies priority actions, investments needs and international cooperation possibilities. It also foresees a calendar of space missions and describes a set of specific projects. Some of the projects mention cooperation with international partners. The 2004 Technological Innovation Law provided conditions to build a more favorable environment for partnerships between universities, technological institutes and industry. There is legal framework in Brazil that provides for the participation of the private sector in space activities in Brazil, particularly in space launch from the Brazilian territory. For that purpose, foreign private companies must register as enterprises in Brazil, in accordance with the Brazilian national law.

Malaysia — Incessant efforts
Three arms in the Malaysian government deal with space technology- the National Space agency (ANGKASA), the Remote Sensing Agency (ARSM) and the Astronautics Technology Sdn Bhd (ATSB). On 14 July 2009, Malaysia launched RazakSAT, the first and only earth observation satellite on equatorial orbit. The RazakSAT was the second satellite into orbit joining its forerunner, the TiungSAT-1. RazakSat-2 Satellite Program is a continuation of the strategic satellite technology development in the aspect of infrastructure, human capital and industry’s capabilities enhancement.

Australia — Catching up fast
Australia’s first space agency is set to begin operations in July 2018 after securing $26 million in budget funding. The agency is located within the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and is expected to take the lead on civil space policy, including finding ways to use Australia’s technology and advanced manufacturing skills to become a world-leading developer of space-based technologies. It will also facilitate international space engagement, both in policy and industry forums, to build the networks needed to develop Australia’s space capability and ensure industry partners can access global supply chains. The space program has the potential to create a $12 billion space industry in Australia by 2030 and up to 20,000 jobs.

South Korea — Progressing aggressively
Korea now has a rapidly expanding space program with exploration aspirations. In order to develop it more efficiently the Korean government revised the Mid-and Long-Term National Space Development Basic Plan with a resolution of the National Science and Technology Council on 17 May 2005. Furthermore, the Korean government established “a new 1st Space Development Promotion Plan (2007-2016)” on June 2007 and formulated annually “the Space Development and Implementation Plan (January 2010 ~ February 2011). The Korean National Science and Technology Council issued a plan for a National Space Program. Korean space policy is based on the national space program and the following three-space. Acts. The Space Relationship Law of Korea is divided into three branches: (1) the Aerospace. Industry Development Promotion Act of 1987, (2) the Space Development Promotion Act of 2005 and the (3) Space Damage Compensation Act of 2007.

Africa — Two big players, others strolling close
Africa’s space programs now look much more promising. Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt and Algeria have taken renewed interests in their existing programs, and Kenya has joined the club and launched its own home-designed satellite, recently. Nigeria and South Africa have by far the most advanced space programs on the continent, and South Africa is set to host the world’s biggest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
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SpaceX veut récupérer la coiffe du Falcon 9 mais il n'y arrive pas

SpaceX veut récupérer la coiffe du Falcon 9 mais il n'y arrive pas | Space business and exploration |
La dernière version du lanceur Falcon 9, la Block 5, a été adaptée pour le vol habité mais aussi être entièrement réutilisable. Maintenant que SpaceX maîtrise la récupération de l'étage principal et avant de s'affairer à celle de l'étage supérieur qui ne sera pas une mince affaire, il est aujourd'hui question de récupérer la coiffe. Depuis février, la société d'Elon Musk dispose d'un bateau sur lequel a été installé un immense filet pour récupérer les demi-coiffes. Pour l'instant, les différentes tentatives se sont soldées par un échec.
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Mercredi, à 15 minutes d'intervalle, une Ariane 5 d'Arianespace et un Falcon 9 de SpaceX, dans sa dernière version (Block 5) ont décollé presqu'en même temps. C'était le quatrième lancement de l'année pour Ariane 5 et le deuxième de cette semaine pour le Falcon 9 ! SpaceX compte désormais 14 lancements en 2018, dont 5 GTO.

Ces deux lanceurs avaient en commun de compléter deux constellations en orbite. Ariane 5 a lancé ses derniers satellites Galileo avant de laisser la place à Ariane 6 tandis que Falcon 9 a mis sur orbite le septième lot (de 10 satellites) de la constellation Iridium Next. Le prochain lancement d'une Ariane 5 est prévu le 5 septembre et le prochain vol d'un Falcon 9 dès ce 4 août.
La récupération des coiffes du Falcon 9 : le nouveau pari de SpaceX

Sans surprise, SpaceX a récupéré l’étage principal de son lanceur, qui s'est posé en pleine mer sur la barge baptisée Of Course I Still Love You, mais a raté une nouvelle fois sa tentative de récupérer l'une des deux demi-coiffes du lanceur. À sa décharge, les conditions météorologiques, marquées par des vents violents, étaient trop défavorables. Ces demi-coiffes sont équipées de petits propulseurs pour se guider, d'un parachute pour freiner lors de la descente et d'un système GPS pour la localisation.

Une demi-coiffe du Falcon 9 vue depuis le bateau Mr Steven sur lequel elle devait atterrir. Elle a raté sa cible de moins de cent mètres ! © SpaceX

Une demi-coiffe du Falcon 9 vue depuis le bateau Mr Steven sur lequel elle devait atterrir. Elle a raté sa cible de moins de cent mètres ! © SpaceX

Ces demi-coiffes doivent se poser sur un bateau baptisé Mister Steven équipé d'un immense filet pour les récupérer.

Cette tentative était la quatrième depuis le premier essai survenu en février de cette année lors du lancement de Paz, un satellite espagnol d'observation radar de la Terre. La demi-coiffe avait raté de peu le bateau et son immense filet en tombant à moins de cent mètres !

La récupération de la coiffe du lanceur est tout sauf un caprice. Il faut savoir que ces structures, qui servent à protéger les satellites des contraintes du lancement lors de la traversée de l'atmosphère, coûtent plus ou moins six millions de dollars (source SpaceX). Ces demi-coiffes pourraient très bien être récupérées après avoir amerri sur l'océan, mais l'eau salée est très corrosive. Elle peut endommager ou contaminer certaines parties sensibles de la coiffe.
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Final Frontier Design wants to make spacesuits at a fraction of NASA's cost

Final Frontier Design wants to make spacesuits at a fraction of NASA's cost | Space business and exploration |
Final Frontier Design is a Brooklyn-based spacesuit start-up developing the next-gen gear for both astronauts and civilian space tourists.
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America Could Lose Its Access to the International Space Station for Nearly a Year

America Could Lose Its Access to the International Space Station for Nearly a Year | Space business and exploration |
Boeing and SpaceX, owing to manufacturing delays and certification hurdles, are unlikely to provide NASA with the vehicles required to transport astronauts to the International Space Station next year, according to an alarming government report. As a result, and starting in late 2019, the U.S. might not have a crew aboard the ISS for nearly an entire year.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is in jeopardy, according to a report published this week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and a plan is now needed to ensure uninterrupted access to the International Space Station. Failure to do so could result in the U.S. losing its ability to send astronauts to the ISS once NASA’s contract expires with Russia’s Soyuz program in November of 2019. The GOA report warns that the U.S. may lose its ability to send astronauts to space for a period lasting nine months or more.

And that sucks. The country that sent astronauts to the Moon from 1968 to 1972 like it was nobody’s business, the country that maintained a (reasonably) reliable astronaut delivery service from 1981 to 2011 in the form of the now-retired Space Shuttle Program, could soon be grounded. It would appear that NASA’s shift to using private sector partners, in conjunction with budget cuts, has now made the United States a bit player when it comes to launching crewed missions into space. At least for now.
Image: GAO

In 2014, NASA signed contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to develop vehicles capable of transporting astronauts to the ISS. Collectively, the contracts are worth $6.8 billion, according to GAO, but the programs have been beset with delays. The SpaceX Dragon capsule was originally scheduled for early 2017, but it’s not expected to be certified until February 2019. Boeing’s Starliner, which was supposed to be ready during the third quarter of 2017, has been pushed to January 2019.

So both vehicles could be ready in early 2019, but that’s not the problem. The issue as the GAO sees it has to do with NASA’s rather vague certification process, which is needed to determine if these new capsules will be safe enough for human spaceflight. The current process requires NASA to assess the probability of a crew member getting killed or disabled during a flight. However, NASA “doesn’t have a consistent approach for calculating this metric,” which means “results can vary based on who within NASA is conducting the analysis,” according to the GAO report. The government auditors say further delays are likely, as the “Commercial Crew Program’s schedule risk analysis shows that the certification milestone is likely to slip.”
Specs of Boeing’s Starliner (top) and SpaceX’s Dragon capsule (bottom).
Image: GAO/SpaceX/Boeing

This presents an obvious problem. With the Soyuz contract expiring late next year, these anticipated delays could result in a gap, possibly lasting nine months or more, in which the United States won’t be able to send astronauts to the ISS. NASA could try to book seats aboard future Soyuz missions, but that could be easier said than done. “The process for manufacturing the [Soyuz] spacecraft and contracting for those seats typically takes three years—meaning additional seats would not be available before 2021,” notes the GAO report.

It’s all very bleak, but the GAO made several recommendations in its report. In addition to regularly sharing its scheduled risk analyses with Congress, GAO says NASA should “develop and maintain a contingency plan for ensuring a presence on the ISS until a Commercial Crew Program contractor is certified.” In advance of these capsules being ready, the space agency should do a full review of how it determines risk tolerance levels for its crew. And once NASA has completed the anticipated certification reviews, it “should document lessons learned [relating to the potential] loss of crew as a safety threshold for future crewed spaceflight missions, given the complexity of the metric.”

The GAO’s recommendations are as vague as they are obvious. Of course, NASA needs a backup plan, and a way to fix this convoluted certification thing. But hey, what more should we expect from government auditors? Their job is to point out the problems, not to solve them. NASA, and especially Congress, which holds the purse strings, need to figure this shit out. This is all totally not cool.
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Europe spatiale, la bombe incendiaire de Tom Enders

Europe spatiale, la bombe incendiaire de Tom Enders | Space business and exploration |
Dans un courrier adressé à Angela Merkel et Emmanuel Macron, Tom Enders attaque frontalement l'ESA et les agences spatiales nationales accusées d'être dépassées par le New Space. Il souhaite que l'industrie discute directement avec les Etats.

L'Europe spatiale semble au bord de l'implosion. En tout cas, les couteaux sont déjà sortis. Airbus a lancé les hostilités et essaie de faire exploser la vieille Europe spatiale, de plus en plus déchirée entre le groupe européen, qui veut le leadership, et les agences spatiales européennes accusées de rater le train du "New Space". Le président exécutif d'Airbus, Tom Enders, a décidé d'employer les grands moyens pour ce coup de force. Il a donc sorti la "grosse Berta" en adressant un courrier le 25 mai dernier à Angela Merkel et Emmanuel Macron, dont La Tribune a eu connaissance. Des copies ont été envoyées à Edouard Philippe (Matignon), Bruno Le Maire (Economie et finances) et Frédérique Vidal, en charge de l'espace, en France et Peter Atlmaier (Economie) et Olaf Scholz (Finances) en Allemagne.

Dans ce courrier, qui aurait été reçu de façon extrêmement mitigée au plus haut niveau de l'Etat français, Tom Enders "recommande vivement" aux deux chefs d'Etat une initiative franco-allemande en vue de "définir en coopération avec l'industrie, une nouvelle vision spatiale, de nouveaux projets ambitieux et de nouvelles politiques pour l'Europe". Car, selon lui, la France et l'Allemagne qui sont "les deux nations spatiales européennes prééminentes", "doivent prendre les devants". Il préconise notamment que "l'espace devrait aussi faire partie d'un Traité de l'Elysée renouvelé". Le traité d'amitié franco-allemand, dit traité de l'Élysée, est un traité bilatéral entre la France et l'Allemagne signé au palais de l'Élysée le 22 janvier 1963 destiné à sceller la réconciliation entre les deux pays.
Airbus veut des discussions dans les prochains mois

Tom Enders pose cash les questions sur l'accès de l'Europe à l'espace : "l'Europe a-t-elle besoin d'un accès indépendant à l'espace dans l'avenir et, si oui, comment un tel accès, y compris pour les vols spatiaux habités, peut être garanti compte tenu de la forte pression des Etats Unis (Ndlr : SpaceX...) et des nouveaux acteurs (Ndlr, Inde, Chine)". Et de continuer: comment la gouvernance spatiale et la coopération européennes peuvent être améliorées afin de stimuler l'innovation, la rapidité et le leadership de notre industrie?" Airbus se dit prêt à "discuter de ces questions et bien d'autres avec les ministères et les agences" en charge de la politique spatiale "dans les prochains mois".

"Nous comptons sur votre soutien à cette initiative, étant donné qu'assurer le leadership de l' espace européen signifie également la maîtrise des technologies clés et des infrastructures qui protégeront l'Europe, la sauvegarde de son développement économique et l'emploi des salariés des prochaines générations", a expliqué Tom Enders.

Pourquoi ce coup de force de Tom Enders? Pour concurrencer les Etats-Unis et les nouveaux entrants dans le domaine spatial, il estime que "l'industrie seule ne sera pas en mesure de réussir dans le nouvel environnement spatial. Un alignement étroit entre les gouvernements et une vision européenne claire pour les futurs projets spatiaux, ainsi que des politiques et des budgets en phase avec cette vision, sont d'une importance cruciale".
Des agences spatiale au placard?

Très clairement, Tom Enders et Airbus veulent balayer l'Agence spatiale européenne (ESA) et les agences nationales accusées d'avoir une gouvernance et des processus de prise de décision "clairement insuffisants pour faire face à un environnement nouveau, très dynamique et qui change rapidement". Il constate que la modernisation de la NASA au cours des dix dernières années "montre le chemin". Tout comme Airbus qui a créé ArianeGroup avec Safran, participé au programme de constellation de satellites OneWeb et investi dans des start-ups en Europe et aux Etats-Unis, a rappelé Tom Enders.

Le président exécutif fustige également "les interventions politiques", qui ralentissent d'après lui les processus de décision en exigeant avec "insistance" de la charge de travail dans leur pays selon le principe de retour géographique sur investissement. Principe dont a beaucoup profité l'Allemagne, notamment Airbus, ces dernières années. Un paradoxe qui ne fait pas peur à Tom Enders, qui attaque indirectement l'existence de OHB, qui a été renforcé par Berlin, et du lanceur Vega en Italie. La France, l'Allemagne et l'Angleterre... n'auraient pas vraiment apprécié cette sortie. Dans la foulée de ce courrier, le PDG d'ArianeGroup, Alain Charmeau regrettait dans une interview accordée à La Tribune d'attendre encore des commandes institutionnelles pour Ariane 6 pour la période 2021 et 2022.
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Small Satellites: Big Growth Projection

Small Satellites: Big Growth Projection | Space business and exploration |

By 2030, there will be an estimated 11,631 launch demands for new constellation installations and replacement missions, which could take the market past the $62 billion mark.

That projection comes from the London-based Frost & Sullivan’s recent analysis, “Small-satellite Launch Services Market, Quarterly Update Q1 2018, Forecast to 2030.”

Launch demand

The evolution of small satellites from technology demonstrators to providers of low-cost operational services across distributed industry segments is attracting launch demand from organizations all over the world.

As the lifespan of these satellites is between two years and five years, there will be constant launch demand and participants will look to enhance their systems and infrastructure.

Business model

Observes Vivek Suresh Prasad, the group’s Space Industry Principal, Aerospace & Defense:

“While North American and European companies will be the leading developers of flexible, dedicated launch vehicles, players in Asia-Pacific are looking to follow suit,” he said in a press statement. “Many players are also analyzing the feasibility of the small-satellite spaceport business model to provide dedicated launch services to small-satellite operators.”

Rideshare insufficient

According to a Frost & Sullivan statement:

“The high volume of launch demand for small satellites is driving satellite operators to increase their launch capacity. The current rideshare capacity is insufficient to meet the upcoming launch demand. Most small satellites use the rideshare capacity as a secondary payload on existing launches. This makes their project schedule and mission requirements dependent on the primary payload. Many incumbent and emerging commercial operators are preparing for the impending capacity expansion by providing dedicated services and launch flexibility to small-satellite operators.”

Production challenges

Once the unit shipment needs are met, the market could grow impressively. Some key numbers are outlined below:

— The total projected launch capacity supply, including the success of multiple dedicated planned launch services, is 11,640 small satellites.

— In this case, a total payload mass of 2,473 tons can be potentially launched.

— Small satellites in the mass segments of 0 to 15 Kilograms and 150 to 500 Kg could account for as much as 65 percent of the small-satellite launch demand. Thirty-two small-satellite commercial operators will generate more than 90% of the launch demand.

“The key to resolving production challenges is to standardize, optimize and deploy low-rate serial production lines for small satellites and the launch hardware for the relevant launch vehicles,” added Vivek.

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Juteux contrats militaires pour SpaceX et ULA

Juteux contrats militaires pour SpaceX et ULA | Space business and exploration |

L'US Air Force accorde à SpaceX et United Launch Alliance deux nouveaux contrats, pour le lancement de plusieurs satellites militaires depuis la Floride, en 2019 et 2020.

En parallèle des accords dévoilés lors du 37e congrès Satellite de Washington, l’US Air Force a annoncé le 14 mars la signature de deux nouveaux contrats de lancement de satellites militaires.

Le premier contrat revient à SpaceX et concerne la mise à poste, entre fin 2019 et 2020, de trois nouveaux satellites GPS III de troisième génération, à l’aide du Falcon 9.

Le montant total du contrat passé à SpaceX, qui comporte pour le moment une commande ferme et deux options, atteint 290,6 M$, soit 96,9 M$ par mission.

Le second contrat a été accordé à United Launch Service (ULA), qui se verra confier en 2020 les missions AFSPC 8 et 12 de l’Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), à l’aide de l’Atlas 5.

Le contrat passé à ULA s’élève, lui, à 351,8 M$, soit 175,9 M$ par mission.

Sixième contrat militaire SpaceX.

C’est le sixième contrat militaire décroché par SpaceX, dont le lanceur est qualifié Défense depuis 2015, après les lancements du satellite de reconnaissance NROL-76 (mai 2017), du drone orbital X37B (septembre 2017) et de la mystérieuse charge utile Zuma (janvier 2018), et en attendant les deux premiers GPS III (actuellement prévus pour septembre 2018 et en mars 2019).

Par ailleurs, le 14 mars également, DigitalGlobe a annoncé avoir retenu SpaceX pour le déploiement des six premiers exemplaires de la constellation WorldView Legion pour l'observation de la Terre. Les satellites seront lancés par grappe de trois en 2021, à l'aide deux Falcon 9 « éprouvés ».

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Selling the International Space Station to private companies will be tough

Selling the International Space Station to private companies will be tough | Space business and exploration |

Selling the ISS might not be as easy as it first appears, says the CEO of MirCorp, which attempted the same thing 20 years ago

You have a few billion pounds to spare and want to set up a new company selling journeys into space. What will you invest your money in? A piece of equipment designed in the 1980s that needs constant maintenance, or start again with a brand new, tailored design using today's technology?

For a few people, this could become a very real problem in just six years' time.

The future of the International Space Station (ISS) is uncertain. The ISS is a joint venture between the space agencies of Canada, the US, Russia, Japan and Europe, but the majority of the money comes from Nasa. The agency spends $3.5 billion a year on the ISS, with an additional $1 billion coming from the other contributors combined. This revenue stream could come to a halt in 2024, as it was revealed earlier this week in the 2019 fiscal year budget.
Who would buy it?

If the US stops funding the space station, other countries could fill the gap. This is inevitable, according to former astronaut Mark Kelly.

"Other countries will undoubtedly fill the void left by American withdrawal - most notably China and Russia, countries we consider significant rivals," says Kelly, in an editorial for the New York Times. "Not only would they reap the economic and political benefits of leading in space but they also could change the direction of the world's collective space endeavors in a way inimical to American interests and values."

But that isn't Trump's plan. He wants to fund a $150 million program that "would begin support for commercial partners to encourage development of capabilities that the private sector and Nasa can use." In other words, he wants to sell it to a private company.
It's been attempted before

Selling the space station might not be as easy as it first appears - take it from someone who would know. Today, Jeffrey Manber is CEO of NanoRacks, the commercial company which teamed up with Nasa earlier this year to design the ISS's first commercial air lock. But in 1999, Manber was CEO of MirCorp, the company that tried to commercialise Russia's Mir space station.

in June 2000 the Russian space agency announced it could no longer fund the Mir space station

After operating for 13 years, the plan was to sell the Mir space station to private companies, possibly to become the world's first in-orbit television studio. In December 1999, MirCorp was given the first commercial lease agreement for an orbiting manned space station.
The Russian space agency worked alongside MirCorp, to try and find potential space tourists to visit the station. They secured a contract with American businessman Dennis Tito, for him to become the first space tourist.
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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will blast off tomorrow in Musk's most ambitious launch yet
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy will blast off tomorrow in Musk's most ambitious launch yet

Two astronauts flew to the then-dormant station to prepare it for space tourists. They stayed there for 76 days while adverts for a new reality TV show that would see winners flown into space, Destination Mir, were being broadcasted on Earth.

However, in June 2000 the Russian space agency announced it could no longer fund the station, as it had to focus on its involvement with the ISS. The station was de-orbited in 2001, and Denis Tito never ended up visiting Mir, instead he went to its new and improved rival, the ISS.

Now, the ISS could be facing a similar situation, if the US decides to stop funding.
Marketing the ISS

"From my experience marketing the world's first commercial platform, the Mir, the overriding lesson is that older space stations begin to resemble older houses and more and more of the astronauts' time will be taken up with repairs and maintenance," Manber says. "It's my feeling by 2024 it will be optimal to have new platforms, dedicated to market niches, with 2020 technology and not 1980s technology like the station is."

As for who might buy it, the answer is unclear. "I’m in favour of private, commercial, space in general, but I have my doubts that a commercial ISS is viable," says John O'Sullivan, author of In the Footsteps of Columbus: European Missions to the International Space Station. Plus, it would be a complex thing to try and sell. "The US section is shared by various agreements by the Nasa, ESA, JAXA and CSA. Even the Columbus module, which was paid for by ESA is shared with the others."

Then there's the running costs. "Even if it was sold for €1, the running costs would be out of reach of any commercial operator," adds O'Sullivan. "SpaceX, Bigelow, etcetera, would prefer to build in value operations from the start of any design."

Whatever happens, the budget is a sign that Nasa will not be blocking the move to an increasingly privatised space industry.

"The importance of the presidents' budget request is that it starts the debate on how to transition to commercial platforms while emphasizing we need to keep the current ecosystem," says Manber "meaning the launch services and the IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) and the other space station resources that we have developed as a nation and as a program."

"Now we need to build on this legacy and this ecosystem and not necessarily keep in orbit as one piece that will be a 40-year-old platform," he adds. "That was a key problem with the space shuttle program; we keep it operational for too long and we did not adequately plan for the transition."

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In-Orbit Servicing Market Opportunity Exceeds $3 Billion – Parabolic Arc

In-Orbit Servicing Market Opportunity Exceeds $3 Billion – Parabolic Arc | Space business and exploration |
Northern Sky Research’s industry-first In-Orbit Servicing Markets (IoSM) report, released today, finds the nascent in-orbit servicing market poised for growth, and forecasts a total market of over $3B in the next 10 years. Life extension services drive most of this revenue, as many in-orbit service providers plan to enter the market in the next five years servicing commercial and government customers with additional solutions to fleet management.

“In-orbit servicing is an entirely new market, ripe for growth, providing the satellite industry with an attractive value proposition in an environment of falling capacity prices, rapid technology changes, and uncertainty in CAPEX,” noted Carolyn Belle, NSR Senior Analyst and report co-author. Affordability has long been a major barrier for IoS players, but as the technology advances, the business case evolves.

Until a few initial in-orbit demonstrations prove the technology works as a system, there will be a reasonable level of apprehension amongst stakeholders. But the potential of In-Orbit Servicing is vast and varied: from life extension, de-orbiting, and salvage operations that lead early revenue opportunities, to satellite repair and alteration on the mid-term roadmap, while diverse emerging applications support is a long-term objective.

“In-Orbit Servicing (IoS) is seen as an additional tool in the operator’s array of options for fleet management, and operators are more eager than ever before to use it to optimize their investments in space assets,” explained Shagun Sachdeva, NSR Analyst and report co-author. She added: “After years of demonstration and tests, recent contracts and upcoming missions show signs of a solidifying business case for IOS”.

Still, the future success of the industry has obstacles to overcome and will also depend on government support and legal and regulatory requirements coming together to facilitate market growth.

About the Report

With the first commercial servicing spacecraft slated to launch in 2018, NSR’s In-Orbit Servicing Markets (IoSM) dives into the market trends and subsequent challenges that impact the industry’s future. This report evaluates the main IoS applications for different customer types and provides a global market revenue and addressable market demand forecast for each application for a 10-year period, 2017-2027.
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Comment et quand suivre le décollage historique du lanceur Falcon Heavy de SpaceX - Sciences - Numerama

Comment et quand suivre le décollage historique du lanceur Falcon Heavy de SpaceX - Sciences - Numerama | Space business and exploration |
paceX doit réaliser un décollage historique début février avec le vol inaugural de son lanceur lourd, le Falcon Heavy. Voici les principales indications à connaître si vous voulez suivre l'évènement.

Le grand jour est imminent pour SpaceX : le 6 février 2018, l’entreprise procédera au premier décollage de son lanceur lourd, le Falcon Heavy.
Pourquoi la mission est importante ?

C’est un pas décisif que s’apprête à faire la société, si tout se passe bien : un succès lui ouvrirait en effet les portes à de plus grandes ambitions — que son fondateur répète dès qu’il en a l’occasion –, en particulier des missions vers la Lune ou Mars. Pour l’instant, le groupe commercialise des engins de capacité intermédiaire pour mettre en orbite des satellites ou ravitailler la station spatiale internationale.

Le Falcon Heavy constitue un vrai défi pour SpaceX : de nombreux paramètres sont à prendre en compte, notamment le fait qu’il y a beaucoup plus de carburant en jeu pour arracher le lanceur à la gravité terrestre. Sans parler de sa complexité accrue, du fait d’un plus grand nombre de moteurs-fusées. Certes, le test de mise à feu statique, préalable indispensable au vol, s’est bien passé, mais on ne sait jamais.
CC SpaceX
Qu’est-ce que le Falcon Heavy ?

Le lanceur lourd Falcon Heavy est le dernier-né des engins construits par SpaceX, une société spécialisée dans l’aérospatiale. Il s’agit d’une version bien plus musclée de sa solution intermédiaire, le lanceur Falcon 9. Schématiquement, SpaceX a pris un exemplaire du Falcon 9 sur lequel il a greffé deux propulseurs latéraux pour lui donner une puissance bien supérieure au décollage.

Grâce à ses nombreux moteurs-fusées et des réservoirs de carburant additionnels, le Falcon Heavy est capable d’emporter en orbite terrestre basse une charge utile de près de 64 tonnes et d’environ 27 tonnes en orbite de transfert géostationnaire. Ce lanceur est susceptible de servir pour une éventuelle mission vers Mars, avec une capacité d’emport d’un peu moins de 17 tonnes.
CC SpaceX
Quand a lieu le vol inaugural ?

Le décollage aura lieu le mardi 6 février 2018 à 13h30, selon un message publié la veille par Elon Musk, le patron de SpaceX. Il précise que cet horaire est à comprendre selon le fuseau horaire de Floride. Attention, cet État en utilise deux mais c’est bien celui désigné sous le nom d’Eastern Standard Time (EST), puisque c’est dans celui-ci que se trouve Cap Canaveral, qui accueillera le vol inaugural.

Six heures de décalage existent entre l’heure de l’Est et l’heure normale d’Europe centrale, le fuseau utilisé en France métropolitaine. En résumé, le décollage aura lieu à 19h30, heure française.
Elon Musk.
CC Michelle Andonian
Comment regarder le décollage du Falcon Heavy

Il sera relativement aisé de suivre le décollage du Falcon Heavy, étant donné qu’il aura lieu au moment où l’après-midi s’achèvera en France métropolitaine. Si vous avez la possibilité de suivre l’évènement, sachez qu’une retransmission en direct devrait avoir lieu depuis le site de SpaceX. La page n’a pas été actualisé (elle évoque encore la mission GovSat-1), mais elle sera assurément mise à jour pour l’évènement.

Si vous n’êtes pas en mesure de regarder la retransmission télévisée pour une raison ou pour une autre, vous pouvez toujours vous rabattre sur le compte Twitter de l’entreprise américaine. Celui-ci devrait retranscrire par écrit les grandes étapes du vol inaugural, avec éventuellement quelques captures d’écran pour illustrer le décollage. Évidemment, tout ceci sera ensuite disponible en replay.
CC SpaceX
Où ce vol historique a lieu ?

Le vol inaugural du lanceur Falcon Heavy se déroulera au centre spatial Kennedy, près de Cap Canaveral, une base de lancement que l’entreprise connaît très bien puisque c’est de là que la très grande majorité des missions du groupe décolle (en incluant celles du centre spatial Kennedy). Le décollage depuis cet emplacement a été confirmé par Elon Musk au début du mois de décembre.

Il est à noter que c’est le complexe de lancement 39 qui sera utilisé. Comme l’a souligné le chef d’entreprise américain, c’est depuis cette zone qu’une fusée Saturn V a décollé un certain 16 juillet 1969 avec à son bord Neil Armstrong, Edwin « Aldrin et Michael Collins. Outre Apollo 11, c’est aussi depuis la LC-39 que partaient les missions impliquant la navette spatiale américaine.

L’histoire se fait aussi avec des symboles.
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[VIDEO] How China is taking on the world in space - YouTube

How China is taking on the world in space
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Aller sur Mars avec les Chinois? "Oui bien sûr" (Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES)

Aller sur Mars avec les Chinois? "Oui bien sûr" (Jean-Yves Le Gall, CNES) | Space business and exploration |
La France est un des très rares pays à coopérer avec la Chine dans le domaine spatial. Une coopération franco-chinoise initiée par Jacques Chirac.

Vous avez signé un accord en Chine lors de la visite d'Emmanuel Macron. Quels sont les programmes majeurs développés en partenariat avec les Chinois?
Nous avons actuellement deux satellites en cours de fabrication : CFOSat pour l'étude des vagues et SVOM pour l'étude des phénomènes énergétiques des sources gamma de l'univers. CFOSat est le programme le plus avancé. Il est en cours d'intégration à Pékin et il sera lancé en septembre ou octobre 2018 par un lanceur chinois Longue Marche 2C.

Le climat est-il un thème porteur dans la coopération spatiale franco-chinoise?
Absolument. A cet égard, CFOSat prend un relief particulier dans nos relations avec la Chine. Ce satellite permettra des observations très précises pour étudier les changements climatiques, ce à quoi les Chinois sont très attachés. Lors du « One Planet Summit » organisé à Paris en décembre dernier à l'initiative du président de la République, le vice-Premier ministre chinois, a eu une position extrêmement allante. Mon homologue chinois, le président de la CNSA (China National Space Administration), est également très dynamique sur ces programmes.

La France est l'un des rares pays à entretenir des relations dans le domaine spatial. Pour quelles raisons?
Nous entretenons une coopération très forte avec la Chine. Elle est sans doute plus importante pour les Chinois que pour nous parce que nous sommes pratiquement les seuls au monde, avec l'Agence spatiale européenne (ESA), à entretenir une coopération avec eux. Pourquoi ? Essentiellement en raison des règles américaines d'exportation ITAR, qui sont très strictes et qui interdisent l'exportation de matériel sensible vers la Chine. Mais il y a eu en France cette volonté politique de développer des programmes en coopération avec les Chinois. C'est Jacques Chirac qui a insufflé cette volonté de coopérer avec eux sur le plan spatial. Nicolas Sarkozy l'a amplifiée. Enfin, cette coopération a abouti lors du quinquennat de François Hollande avec la signature d'un accord-cadre en 2014 lors de la visite du président Xi Jinping en France. Pour ma part, je me suis beaucoup impliqué dans cet accord car j'ai très vite compris que nous avions là à saisir une chance historique.

Comment êtes-vous parvenu à surmonter l'obstacle ITAR?
Il fallait arriver à mettre en place un accord permettant de faire des satellites qui s'affranchissent des normes ITAR. Cela été possible avec CFOSat, notamment grâce à l'instrument SWIM fabriqué en France, qui est le cœur du satellite franco-chinois. CFOSat est actuellement à Pékin, ce que permet notre accord puisqu'il n'y a aucun composant américain dans le satellite.

Au-delà des satellites CFOSat et SVOM, que peut faire la France à l'avenir avec la Chine?
Nous pourrions lancer de nouveaux programmes en coopération sur le climat, la science et les technologies. Concernant la science, la France peut apporter sa contribution pour des missions d'exploration planétaire. Les Chinois veulent aller sur la Lune et sur Mars. Nous devons également poursuivre notre coopération avec la Chine sur la lutte contre le réchauffement climatique, qui est aujourd'hui fondamentale, surtout dans le contexte actuel avec les Etats-Unis.

Si les Chinois vous proposent une coopération sur Mars, le CNES embarque-t-il?Oui bien sûr. Nous travaillons déjà sur Mars avec l'ESA via le programme ExoMars, avec la NASA (Curiosity, Maven, InSight et Mars 2020) et avec les Japonais sur MMX (Martian Moons Explorer). A mon avis, il faut être partout.
Fin publicité dans 26 s

Quelle est votre stratégie de coopération avec la Chine?
Le CNES met l'accent sur le climat et la science avec sa stratégie de niches, qui nous permet de démultiplier considérablement nos efforts. Notre coopération avec la Chine est l'un des exemples de cette approche : le développement de l'instrument SWIM nous coûte quelques dizaines de millions d'euros. Si nous avions dû développer CFOSat tout seuls, il aurait fallu mettre sur la table entre 300 et 400 millions d'euros.

Comment analysez-vous l'ambition spatiale chinoise?
Elle est politique. Le spatial est un élément très important pour la Chine afin d'exister sur la scène internationale. La Chine a lancé une station spatiale, elle veut envoyer des Chinois sur la Lune et elle travaille également sur une mission vers Mars. La Chine veut vraiment exister et de façon très forte.

Y a-t-il un match entre la Chine et les Etats-Unis pour aller sur Mars comme il y en a eu un dans le passé entre les Etats-Unis et l'URSS pour aller sur la Lune ?
On ne peut pas dire qu'il y ait un match entre les Etats-Unis et la Chine. Ce qu'on peut dire en revanche, c'est que les Chinois souhaitent développer des programmes qui les placent sous le feu médiatique. S'il y a un match, c'est plutôt entre la Chine et l'Inde en ce moment. Vis-à-vis des Etats-Unis, la Chine souhaite être sur tous les programmes spatiaux majeurs. Elle y met des moyens considérables. Par exemple, le centre spatial de Pékin emploie près de 20.000 personnes.

Comment les Américains réagissent-ils aux coopérations spatiales franco-chinoises ?
Il n'y a pas de réprobation de leur part. Eux aussi veulent trouver un moyen de coopérer avec les Chinois. Avec la Chine, c'est un peu « je t'aime, moi non plus » : ils souhaitent engager des coopérations mais ils voient encore des limites. Le positionnement qu'ils ont avec la Chine s'apparente un peu à celui qu'ils avaient avec l'Union Soviétique avant la chute du Mur de Berlin. A l'époque, les Américains voulaient embarquer l'URSS dans le programme de la station spatiale internationale mais c'était trop compliqué. Aujourd'hui, les Américains ont vis-à-vis de la Chine la même posture, même si le contexte commercial et politique est différent. C'est pour cela que c'est très important pour la France de coopérer avec la Chine dans le domaine spatial. D'ailleurs, le président de la République, Emmanuel Macron, qui a souhaité se faire présenter CFOSat à Pékin, l'a parfaitement compris.
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La Nasa présente les astronautes qui testeront les premières capsules spatiales privées -

La Nasa présente les astronautes qui testeront les premières capsules spatiales privées - | Space business and exploration |
La Nasa a dévoilé vendredi 3 août le nom des neuf astronautes qui se rendront dans l'espace en 2019 dans des capsules spatiales de Boeing et SpaceX: un mélange d'astronautes chevronnés et de jeunes loups de l'espace. Ces vols pionniers permettront aux Etats-Unis de reprendre l'envoi de personnes dans l'espace avec des moyens américains, la Nasa ayant arrêté ses navettes spatiales en 2011 et se reposant depuis sur les fusées russes pour emmener ses astronautes sur la Station spatiale internationale (ISS), déboursant 80 millions de dollars pour un simple siège.

C'est également la première fois que des entreprises privées américaines se chargeront de cet acheminement, puisque la Nasa a demandé en 2014 à Boeing et SpaceX de développer de nouveaux systèmes de lancement pour prendre le relais en 2019.

"Ceci est important pour notre pays, nous voulons que l'Amérique sache que nous sommes de retour, que nous faisons voler des astronautes américains dans des capsules américaines depuis le sol américain", a déclaré Jim Bridenstine, l'administrateur de l'agence spatiale américaine, lors d'une cérémonie pour présenter les neuf astronautes (sept hommes et deux femmes) depuis Houston, au Texas.

SpaceX a prévu un vol de démonstration sans passagers en novembre 2018, tandis que les premiers astronautes, parmi lesquels Robert Behnken et Douglas Hurley, devraient quitter la Terre en avril 2019. Pour Boeing, qui développe la capsule Starliner, deux pilotes chevronnés participeront aux vols d'essai: Eric Boe, 53 ans, Christopher Ferguson, 56 ans.

Ils seront accompagnés de Nicole Aunapu Mann qui effectuera là son premier voyage dans l'espace, et de l'expérimentée Sunita Williams, ancienne pilote de l'US Navy (52 ans). Au total, la Nasa a expliqué "avoir signé un contrat pour six missions, avec un maximum de quatre astronautes par mission, pour chaque compagnie".
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Boeing delays Starliner uncrewed flight test for NASA Commercial Crew

Boeing delays Starliner uncrewed flight test for NASA Commercial Crew | Space business and exploration |

Boeing pushed back the first flight of its Starliner capsule to a range of "late 2018 or early 2019," the company said Wednesday.
The capsule suffered a failure during a test in June, while a GAO report previously estimated NASA's Commercial Crew schedule would be delayed.
Boeing will have to wait for NASA's certification for Starliner until after its first crewed flight test in the middle of 2019.

Boeing pushed back the flight schedule of its Starliner capsule by several months, the company said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday. The capsule, being built to fly U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, suffered a failure during a test in June.

"The resulting schedule that we have will support an uncrewed flight test in late 2018 or early 2019," Boeing vice president John Mulholland said.

Boeing's space division was previously targeting August for the uncrewed flight test of Starliner, with the range estimated by the company giving a new target about six months away. The delay of the first Starliner flight means its pad abort test and crewed flight test – the next two critical milestones toward NASA certification — are each delayed to spring 2019 and the middle of 2019, respectively.

The company's announcement comes after a GAO report estimated NASA's Commercial Crew program would suffer further delays, as the capsules Boeing and SpaceX are each developing for the agency's program enter the late stages of their respective testing programs.

"Additional delays could result in a gap in U.S. access to the space station as NASA has contracted for seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft only through November 2019," the GAO report said, published July 11.

Commercial Crew is NASA's solution to once again launch U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil. Since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, astronauts have flown aboard Russian Soyuz — at a cost to NASA of more than $70 million per seat. NASA's new program is competitive, with contracts up for grabs for Boeing to win with its Starliner capsules and SpaceX with its Dragon capsules.

NASA gave Boeing a $4.2 billion contract in 2014 to build three spacecraft while SpaceX won a $2.6 billion contract to develop a crew version of its Dragon vehicle. The development programs for both companies' capsules have been steadily delayed. Both were expecting to complete uncrewed test launches in August at the earliest. NASA was expected to certify Boeing in December 2019 and SpaceX in January 2020, according to analysis earlier this year, but the GAO says further delays are expected.

Mulholland confirmed recent news of an "anomaly" during a test of Starliner's propulsion systems, which he said "was designed to verify all of the service module's propulsion capabilities." The test begin normally but after 1½ seconds the engine's shut down and several of the engine's valves "failed to fully closed," Mulholland said. Despite the test failure, Mulholland said Boeing's team is "confident we identified the route cause" and is working toward "implementing a solution." The result of that test have been "rolled into" the new flight scheduled, Mulholland said.

The GAO's report, which Mulholland said was "developed prior to the hot fire test anomaly," already called for delays to both capsules being built for Commercial Crew. The delays threaten to leave NASA without an option once its contract to fly astronauts aboard Russia's Soyuz capsule expires in November 2019, the report found. The timeline before Boeing's announcement Wednesday already causes a one-month gap, at minimum, in NASA's contracts for seats with Russia and the first launches of Boeing and SpaceX.

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Ariane 5 lance ses derniers satellites Galileo avant de laisser la place à Ariane 6

Ariane 5 lance ses derniers satellites Galileo avant de laisser la place à Ariane 6 | Space business and exploration |

Ce mercredi 25 juillet, quatre nouveaux satellites de la constellation Galileo seront lancés par Arianespace, qui utilisera pour la dernière fois une Ariane 5 ES. Après trois vols d'Ariane 5 dans cette version, c'est Ariane 6 qui prendra le relais dès 2020 pour poursuivre le déploiement des satellites Galileo en orbite.
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Pour sa quatrième mission de l'année, contre déjà 11 lancements pour SpaceX, Arianespace s'apprête à lancer quatre nouveaux satellites de la constellation Galileo (les satellites 23 à 26) sur une orbite circulaire MEO (Medium Earth Orbit en anglais, c'est-à-dire Orbite terrestre moyenne). Le décollage est prévu mercredi 25 juillet à exactement 13 h 25 mn et 1 s, heure de Paris.

Pour cette mission, il n'y a pas de fenêtre de tir, ce qui aurait permis une certaine flexibilité. Si le lanceur ne décolle pas à la seconde prévue, une autre tentative aura lieu vingt-quatre heures plus tard, ou ultérieurement suivant la cause du problème et la solution apportée. Pour ce vol, la performance demandée au lanceur est d'environ 3.379 kg, dont 2.952 kg correspondant à la masse au décollage des quatre satellites (738 kg chacun).

La durée nominale de la mission, du décollage à la séparation des satellites, est d'environ 3 h 56 mn et 54 s. La séparation des satellites 23 et 25 interviendra 3 h 36 mn et 3 s après le décollage. Vingt minutes plus tard, les satellites 24 et 26 seront à leur tour séparés. L'orbite visée est une orbite circulaire de 22.922 kilomètres d'altitude inclinée à 56 degrés. Les satellites Galileo procéderont alors à une manœuvre pour augmenter leur altitude et rejoindre leur orbite opérationnelle à 23.222 km.

Les satellites Galileo 23, 24, 25 et 26, installés sur le dispenser d'Ariane 5. Dispenser est un terme anglais que l'on pourrait traduire par « distributeur » ; c'est une structure qui sert à accrocher plusieurs satellites. © ESA, Cnes, Arianespace, optique vidéo du CSG, P. Baudon

Les satellites Galileo 23, 24, 25 et 26, installés sur le dispenser d'Ariane 5. Dispenser est un terme anglais que l'on pourrait traduire par « distributeur » ; c'est une structure qui sert à accrocher plusieurs satellites. © ESA, Cnes, Arianespace, optique vidéo du CSG, P. Baudon
Place à Ariane 6

La totalité des satellites Galileo déjà en orbite a été déployée par Arianespace. Le premier lancement Galileo IOV 1&2 (In Orbit Validation) a eu lieu le 21 octobre 2011 sur VS01. Cette phase a permis de valider l’ensemble du programme. Arianespace a ensuite mis en orbite Galileo IOV 3&4 sur VS03 le 12 octobre 2012. Les précurseurs Giove-A et Giove-B ont été respectivement lancés depuis Baïkonour par Soyouz en 2005 et 2008.
Voir aussi :Lanceurs : les « dispensers » évoluent pour lancer de multiples satellites

Le lancement des deux premiers Galileo FOC (Full Operational Capability) a eu lieu le 22 août 2014. De 2015 à 2016, lors des lancements Soyouz VS11, VS12, VS13, VS15 et Ariane 5 ES VA233 et VA240, les satellites Galileo 7 à 22 ont ensuite été déployés.

Après ce lancement, Ariane 6, dans sa version à deux boosters (A62), prendra le relais avec 2 lancements pour 4 satellites supplémentaires entre décembre 2020 et juin 2021.
Ce qu'il faut retenir

Tous les satellites de la constellation Galileo sont lancés et mis en orbite par Arianespace.
Après avoir utilisé des lanceurs Soyouz et Ariane 5 dans sa version ES, Arianespace utilisera Ariane 6 dès 2020.
Avec Galileo, l’Europe se dote de son propre système mondial de navigation par satellite, avec des services et une précision qui surpasseront ceux de tous les autres systèmes de positionnement et de navigation par satellite.

Demain, quatre satellites rejoindront la constellation Galileo, lancés par une Ariane 5 ES. Alors que des fabricants de téléphone, comme Apple et Samsung, ont déjà commencé à intégrer des récepteurs Galileo dans leurs appareils, Arianespace poursuit ses lancements. Au milieu de l'an prochain, la couverture sera quasiment mondiale.

Pour son onzième et dernier lancement de l'année, le sixième avec Ariane 5, Arianespace mettra en orbite quatre nouveaux satellites de la constellation Galileo. Pour cette mission, en raison d'une performance demandée d'environ 3.282 kg, dont 2.860 kg représentent la masse au décollage des quatre satellites Galileo (715 kg chacun), c'est une Ariane 5 ES qui sera utilisée. Le lancement depuis le Centre spatial guyanais est prévu mardi 12 décembre, à 19 h 36 mn et 07 s, heure de Paris (15 h 36 min 07 s, heure de Kourou).

Ils seront séparés sur une orbite circulaire à 22.922 km de la Terre, dans le plan A de la constellation (qui en compte trois) et inclinés à 57,00 degrés. Les satellites procéderont alors à une manœuvre pour augmenter leur altitude et rejoindre leur orbite opérationnelle à 23.222 km. Du décollage à la séparation des satellites, la durée de la mission sera d'environ 3 h 55 mn et 45 s. Au moment de l'injection, le lanceur aura atteint une vitesse d'environ 3.000 m/s à une altitude de 22.925 km, soit 300 km en dessous de l'orbite opérationnelle des Galileo.

Les quatre satellites Galileo sur leur dispenser, la structure qui les soutient. © Cnes, Service optique du CSG

Les quatre satellites Galileo sur leur dispenser, la structure qui les soutient. © Cnes, Service optique du CSG
Le dysfonctionnement des horloges atomiques sous contrôle

Ces quatre nouveaux satellites Galileo sont aussi les premiers de la constellation lancés depuis qu'une solution a été trouvée aux pannes des horloges atomiques affectant ceux déjà en orbite. Le nombre d'horloges atomiques en dysfonctionnement n'a jamais été officiellement confirmé (le chiffre qui circule est de 9 sur les 72 en orbite).

En juillet, la Commission européenne avait annoncé avoir trouvé la cause du mauvais fonctionnement de ces horloges. L'enquête menée par l'ESA a mis en évidence un problème de qualité sur un composant technique des horloges au rubidium, qui peut provoquer un court-circuit.
Une couverture mondiale presque complète

Pour l'instant, depuis que les deux premiers satellites de Galileo ont été déployés en octobre 2011, la constellation compte 18 satellites opérationnels avant le lancement de demain. La constellation n'offre donc pas encore une couverture mondiale. Comme le souligne Paul Verhoef, directeur de la Navigation à l'ESA, « lorsque les huit derniers auront été mis en orbite, d'ici mi-2018, le service offrira une couverture mondiale de 99,8 % ». Après les quatre satellites qui seront lancés demain, Arianespace en lancera quatre de plus, à bord d'une troisième et dernière Ariane 5 ES, mi-2018.

À titre de comparaison, la constellation GPS compte 30 satellites sur six orbites différentes à 20.183 km alors que Galileo comptera 30 satellites mais sur trois orbites (huit satellites par plan plus deux de réserve) à une altitude de 23.200 kilomètres.
Ariane 5 lance ses premiers satellites Galileo

Article de Rémy Decourt publié le 16/11/2017

Quatre satellites Galileo s'apprêtent à rejoindre la constellation déjà en orbite. Lancés jusqu'à présent par des fusées Soyouz, ce sera cette fois une Ariane 5 qui s'en chargera. Après ce vol, 18 satellites sur les 30 nécessaires au bon fonctionnement du système auront été lancés. Paul Verhoef, le directeur du programme Galileo et des activités liées à la navigation à l'Esa, nous explique quels services vont bientôt fonctionner et quelles seront les générations suivantes de satellites Galileo.

Pour son neuvième lancement de l'année depuis le Centre spatial guyanais, le sixième avec le lanceur Ariane 5, Arianespace mettra en orbite quatre nouveaux satellites de la constellation Galileo. Ce sera la première fois qu'elle sera utilisée pour lancer des satellites. Auparavant, Arianespace utilisait Soyouz pour les lancer par paire.

Pour cette mission, en raison d'une performance demandée au lanceur d'environ 3.290 kg, dont 2.865 kg représentent la masse au décollage des quatre satellites Galileo (715, 717, 716 et 717 kg), c'est une Ariane 5 ES qui sera utilisée.

Son décollage depuis le Centre spatial guyanais est prévu jeudi 17 novembre, à exactement 14 h 06 mn et 48 s, heure de Paris. Ils seront séparés sur une orbite circulaire à 22.900 km de la Terre, dans le plan C de la constellation et inclinés à 54,57 degrés. Les satellites procéderont alors à une manœuvre pour augmenter leur altitude et rejoindre leur orbite opérationnelle à 23.222 km. Du décollage à la séparation des satellites, la durée de la mission est d'environ 3 h 55 mn et 44 s.

Les quatre satellites Galileo installés sur le dispenser, la structure qui supporte les satellites pendant le vol du lanceur et assure leurs mises à poste à l’instant précis demandé par la mission. © ESA, Cnes, Arianespace, Service optique CSG

Les quatre satellites Galileo installés sur le dispenser, la structure qui supporte les satellites pendant le vol du lanceur et assure leurs mises à poste à l’instant précis demandé par la mission. © ESA, Cnes, Arianespace, Service optique CSG
L'ESA réfléchit déjà aux générations suivantes de satellites Galileo

Le programme Galileo de l'Union européenne consiste à développer un système mondial de navigation par satellites, placé sous contrôle civil. Il s'appuiera sur 30 satellites dont 14 ont déjà été mis en orbite par Arianespace. Avec les satellites Galileo, les services offerts et commercialisés seront de meilleures qualités que ceux du GPS américain actuel. Cinq services seront proposés aux utilisateurs dont un gratuit et universel (Open Service), des services commerciaux et d'autres dédiés à la sécurité, ainsi qu'un spécial réservé aux États membres de l'Union européenne. Paul Verhoef, le directeur du programme Galileo et des activités liées à la navigation à l'Esa répond à nos questions.

Quand les citoyens européens pourront utiliser Galileo ?

Paul Verhoef : D'ici peu. Le mode opératoire de la constellation n'est pas encore complètement opérationnel. Des tests sont encore en cours. D'ores et déjà, il est possible d'utiliser le service ouvert, en combinaison avec le GPS, et le service search and ressue. On vient de débuter les premières expérimentations pour le service public réglementé qui s'adressera aux utilisateurs remplissant une mission de service public. Il sera crypté et doté de mécanismes antibrouillage.

Les satellites utiles à la constellation se portent-ils bien ?

Paul Verhoef : Oui. On les prépare à l'ouverture du service opérationnel. Les trois cités précédemment seront alors proposés. Les services commerciaux permis par la constellation Galileo seront mis en service plus tard. Pour la Commission européenne, le but est de parvenir à une capacité opérationnelle complète en 2020 au plus tard.

Des décisions concernant Galileo sont-elles attendues en décembre lors de la prochaine conférence ministérielle de l'Esa à Lucerne, début décembre 2016 ?

Paul Verhoef : Non. Galileo est un programme de la Commission européenne et seule cette instance et l'Union européenne peuvent prendre des décisions le concernant. Par contre, nous allons proposer aux États membres de financer un programme de recherche sur la navigation par satellites. L'idée est d'aller au-delà de la simple utilisation des applications Galileo.

La plupart de ces applications s'inspirent des services basés sur le système GPS ?

Paul Verhoef : Oui. Mais nous sommes convaincus que la précision et la fiabilité des signaux Galileo offrent des possibilités encore méconnues pour toute une gamme de nouveaux produits et services que ce programme veut explorer. Avec Galileo et Egnos nous avons deux produits complémentaires, basés sur la localisation, qui sont propices à un essor de tout un tas de services commerciaux basés justement sur la connaissance précise de leur position exacte.

La constellation actuelle va-t-elle bénéficier des retombées de ce programme de recherche ?

Paul Verhoef : Non. Bien qu'il ne soit pas exclu qu'une ou deux applications soient intégrées à la constellation, les retombées de ce programme de recherche sont plutôt attendues pour la quatrième, voire la troisième génération de satellites Galileo. Le but de ce programme est d'anticiper ce qui pourrait être fait dans les années 2040 et 2050 et d'identifier les technologiques qui seront potentiellement disponibles à ce moment.

Qu'en est-il des satellites Galileo de la seconde génération, ceux qui vont prendre la relève de l'actuelle constellation ?

Paul Verhoef : Des études sont en cours pour identifier les besoins de nos utilisateurs et identifier les marchés à portée de cette génération et ce que l'on peut faire pour y répondre. Deux scénarios sont à l'étude. Des satellites plus gros ou plus petits, et s'il faut mettre plus de capacité sur le segment spatial. Donc, quelle que soit la taille de ces futurs satellites, nous nous posons les mêmes questions sur les couts de la solution retenue et l'impact sur la stratégie de leur lancement par exemple.

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Neuvième essai du New Shepard - Air&Cosmos

Neuvième essai du New Shepard - Air&Cosmos | Space business and exploration |
Le 18 juillet, le lanceur développé par Blue Origin pour le tourisme spatial a effectué son neuvième vol, probablement le dernier inhabité.

Ejecter en toute sécurité, à n’importe quel moment d’un vol suborbital touristique, la cabine d’équipage, puis la récupérer en douceur sous parachute : telle est la capacité que Blue Origin entendait démontrer pour la seconde fois depuis octobre 2016, à l’occasion de la Mission 9 – inhabitée – de son lanceur monoétage New Shepard. Cette fois, l’objectif n’était pas d’actionner le système en pleine phase d'accélération, mais entre le moment où la cabine s’est normalement détachée de son lanceur et l’apogée.

Retour groupé.

Le lancement de la mission M9 est intervenu depuis la base de West Texas (Corn Ranch, Texas), le 18 juillet à 15 h 11 UTC. Le vol s’est de nouveau déroulé comme à la parade : poussée du moteur durant 2 minutes et 20 secondes, séparation 20 secondes plus tard, et très impressionnante éjection d’urgence à la troisième minute. La cabine, qui embarquait de nouveau des expériences scientifiques et le mannequin Skywalker, a ainsi culminé à 119 km d’altitude, avant d’entamer sa descente. Freinée par trois grands parachutes, elle a touché le sol au bout de 11 minutes et 17 secondes de vol, à seulement quelques dizaines de mètres de son lanceur. Celui-ci s’était magistralement posé un peu moins de quatre minutes auparavant, presque parfaitement au centre de sa cible d’atterrissage.

Tout comme son lanceur, la cabine effectuait son troisième vol depuis décembre dernier, le second en 2018. C’était le neuvième vol d’un New Shepard depuis avril 2015, le huitième récupéré à l’issue de sa mission, et le sixième réutilisant un étage.

Dernier vol inhabité ?

Le prochain vol devrait intervenir d’ici la fin de l’année… et embarquer pour la première fois des passagers. Les rumeurs continuent d’aller bon train, d’une part sur la composition du premier équipage, mais surtout sur le prix des billets des premiers vols ouverts aux touristes, à partir de 2019. A chaque fuite à ce sujet, la société de Jeff Bezos répond ne pas avoir encore fixé ses tarifs. En attendant, les estimations des observateurs restent bien vagues : entre 200 et 300 000 $ le ticket.
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Space vehicles size Comparison

ENG: A channel of incredible comparisons in 3D, animations, shorts and special effects, machinimas and much more.. Subscribe if you like what you see !!
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SpaceX Launch of NASA and Iridium Satellites Delayed Until May 22

SpaceX Launch of NASA and Iridium Satellites Delayed Until May 22 | Space business and exploration |

Two NASA Earth-observation satellites will have to wait a bit longer to get off the ground.

NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission and five Iridium Next commercial communications satellites were scheduled to launch atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday (May 19) from Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California. But the seven-satellite liftoff has now been delayed to next Tuesday (May 22).

Iridium representatives said Monday (May 14) that the launch would slip by two days, to give SpaceX time to deal with a "minor processing issue" associated with the two-stage Falcon 9, according to Spaceflight Now. And yesterday (May 15), Iridium announced that range issues at Vandenberg had tacked a third day onto the delay. [See the Evolution of SpaceX's Rockets in Pictures]

"Update to the Launch Update: Due to range availability at VAFB, #Iridium6/#GRACEFO is now targeting 1 day later; NET 5/22 with backup of 5/23. Instantaneous launch on 5/22 = 12:47:58 pm PDT (19:47:58 UTC) #IridiumNEXT #HereWeGo," the company said via Twitter.

As its name indicates, GRACE-FO follows in the footsteps of NASA's GRACE mission, which characterized Earth's gravitational field from orbit in great detail from 2002 to 2017.

GRACE-FO consists of two identical spacecraft, which "will provide critical measurements that will be used together with other data to monitor the movement of water masses across the planet and mass changes within Earth itself," NASA officials wrote in a mission description. "Monitoring changes in ice sheets and glaciers, underground water storage and sea level provides a unique view of Earth's climate and has far-reaching benefits."

The mission, which is a joint venture involving NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences, will last at least five years.

The upcoming launch continues a long-standing relationship between Iridium and SpaceX; Falcon 9 rockets have already lofted 50 satellites for the communications company's Iridium Next constellation and will launch 75 of the craft over eight liftoffs when all is said and done.

Tuesday's mission will mark the second liftoff for the first stage of this particular Falcon 9; the booster helped launch the secretive Zuma spacecraft for the U.S. government this past January. (Zuma failed to reach orbit, reportedly because of a problem with the payload adapter that connected the satellite to the Falcon 9's upper stage. This adapter was provided by aerospace firm Northrop Grumman, which also built Zuma.)

SpaceX has landed 25 Falcon 9 first stages and re-flown such boosters 11 times to date. These activities are part of the company's effort to develop fully and rapidly reusable rockets and spacecraft, which SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said could cut the cost of spaceflight dramatically.

SpaceX is not expected to land the booster again on Tuesday. This Falcon 9 is a "Block 4" vehicle, a variant whose first stages have flown a maximum of twice. The company recently debuted its upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9, the first stages of which are designed to fly 10 times without refurbishment, and perhaps 100 times or more with some maintenance involved, Musk has said.

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Hélène Huby, la tête chercheuse du futur SpaceX -

Hélène Huby, la tête chercheuse du futur SpaceX - | Space business and exploration |

Pour lancer le fonds de capital-risque Global Space Ventures, dédié aux start-up du spatial, la Française Hélène Huby, ancienne d’Airbus, s’est entourée d’une impressionnante équipe de pontes du secteur.

Une équipe de rêve. Pour lancer le fonds de capital-risque Global Space Ventures, dédié aux start-up du spatial, la Française Hélène Huby, ancienne d'Airbus, s'est entourée d'une impressionnante équipe de pontes du secteur. Outre l'ex-patron de l'Agence spatiale européenne (ESA) Jean-Jacques Dordain et Laetitia Garriott de Cayeux, entrepreneure du spatial passée par Goldman Sachs, deux anciens de SpaceX figurent parmi les fondateurs : Bulent Altan, ancien patron de l'avionique du groupe d'Elon Musk, et David Giger, directeur du programme de capsules Dragon.

Fort de ce casting de luxe, le fonds espère lever 250 millions de dollars, dont une centaine à court terme, pour financer 10 à 15 start-up. « Le secteur spatial est à un tournant : c’est dans les cinq prochaines années que vont émerger les géants de demain, explique Hélène Huby, 40 ans, passée par Bayard Presse et Fabernovel. Nous voulons à la fois leur apporter les moyens financiers de leur développement, mais aussi notre réseau et notre expertise technique. » Global Space Ventures vise notamment des start-up dans l’imagerie, la gestion des débris spatiaux, l’Internet des objets et les constellations de satellites.

Hélène Huby est loin d’être une novice du secteur. Ancienne directrice de l’innovation à Airbus Defence & Space, cette énarque, également diplômée de Sciences- Po et de Normale Sup, a piloté le projet de mini-lanceur spatial Sparrow chez Ariane- Group, un programme finalement arrêté par le champion européen. Désormais, elle se consacre à la levée de fonds de Global Space Ventures. Lancé mi-2017, le nouvel acteur est déjà prêt à dégainer : il est en discussions avancées avec une jeune pousse française, une allemande et une américaine.

Diplômée de Sciences-Po, de l’ENA et de Normale Sup, Hélène Huby passe par Bayard Presse et Fabernovel avant d’entrer à Airbus en 2013. Elle y pilote l’innovation au sein de la division Défense et espace.

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Eutelsat s’associe à Sigfox pour son premier nano-satellite dédié à l’internet des objets

Eutelsat s’associe à Sigfox pour son premier nano-satellite dédié à l’internet des objets | Space business and exploration |

Eutelsat va lancer début 2019 un premier nano-satellite pour récupérer les données d’objets connectés en complément des réseaux terrestres, comme Sigfox. L'entreprise toulousaine est d’ailleurs partenaire de l’opérateur européen dans ce projet.
Eutelsat s’associe à Sigfox pour son premier nano-satellite dédié à l’internet des objets
Eutelsat va tester un premier nano-satellite dédié à l'Internet des objets.

Si Eutelsat ne croit pas vraiment aux constellations de satellites en orbite basse pour l’internet haut débit, pour des raisons de modèle économique, il estime que la technologie a du potentiel pour l’internet des objets (IoT).

L’opérateur européen annonce la commande d'un premier nano-satellite dédié à l’IoT nommé "ELO" (pour "Eutelsat LEO for objects", LEO étant l’acronyme de "low earth orbit", orbite basse) auprès du fabricant Tyvak International SRL, une filiale de l’américain Terran Orbital. Ce premier exemplaire, lancé début 2019 sur une orbite entre 500 et 600 kilomètres d’altitude, servira à évaluer les performances d’un satellite de ce type pour remonter les données issues d’objets connectés et de capteurs pour des zones non couvertes par les réseaux bas débit terrestres. Le satellite ré-expédiera ces données quotidiennement vers une station au sol installée dans l’océan Arctique.

La communication satellite pourra servir de réseau de secours en cas de défaillance ou de saturation du réseau terrestre, qui pourrait arriver en raison de l’explosion annoncée du nombre de capteurs et d’objets connectés, notamment à vocation industrielle. L’envoi d’un premier nano-satellite vise justement à tester s’il y a de la friture sur la ligne entre les objets et l’orbite LEO.

Eutelsat, actionnaire de Sigfox

Pour ce projet, Eutelsat s’associe à la start-up toulousaine Sigfox, dont il est actionnaire depuis 2015. Celui-ci développe un réseau bas débit longue portée dans le monde entier dédié à l’internet des objets. ELO pourra servir de relais au réseau Sigfox, mais Eutelsat entend aussi signer des alliances stratégiques avec d’autres acteurs des télécoms. Dans le cadre du partenariat autour d'ELO, Sigfox aidera Eutelsat à analyser le spectre utilisé dans les bandes de fréquence ISM, mais aussi à traiter les données recueillies.

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PLD Space wins ESA backing for a Small Satellite Orbital Launcher

PLD Space wins ESA backing for a Small Satellite Orbital Launcher | Space business and exploration |
The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded the project "Study on Launch Service Making Use of a Microlauncher" to the Spanish company PLD Space.

The microlauncher study, a part of the ESA's Future Launcher Preparatory Programme, will refine the definition of the European small satellite launcher project proposed by PLD Space, named ARION 2.

In this study, ESA has also tasked PLD Space with proposing and defining - both technically and economically - a new European spaceport, which will be dedicated to launching small satellites to polar and heliosynchronous orbits.

Thanks to the growing support from both the public and the private sector, the new spaceport would ideally be located in Spain. A Spanish spaceport would allow Spain to become the tenth country in the world with independent access to space. This capacity would increase the capabilities of the national space industry and strengthen the Spanish space industry and science.

PLD Space is also evaluating offers from other countries who offered to place a spaceport in their territories; i.e., the Azores Government in Portugal, Andoya Island in Norway, Kourou in French Guiana and the proposed British spaceport.

The microlauncher project sets a precedent in Europe, because for the first time, ESA has publicly announced the study of a commercial launcher outside of its standard launcher fleet, currently formed by the Ariane 5, VEGA and the European version of the Soyuz.

In this proposal, five companies have received the agency support for microlauncher project studies, with PLD Space being the only small company. The other companies, among which many are also involved with European institutional launchers, have over 500 employees. Currently, PLD Space only has 36.

Additionally, the Spanish company GMV is also included in this project. GMV will give PLD Space support on analysis and trajectory estimations of the ARION 2 missions from different spaceports proposed by PLD Space. In addition, within the microlauncher project, GMV will define ARION 2 requirements from the avionics and GNC (Guidance, Navigation and control) standpoint, as well as define the requirements for the ground segment, especially telemetry, monitoring and telecommand.

This project comes a year after ESA awarded the Recovery and Reutilization for a European Launcher project also known as LPSR (Liquid Propulsion Stage Recovery). The project, which PLD Space is developing in cooperation with the agency, will develop the first European reusable launchers. PLD Space is scheduled to perform two launcher recovery technology tests before the end of 2019.

Raul Torres, PLD Space CEO and Co-founder: "ESA showing confidence in our company again is invaluable. It allows us to complete our business plan and shows the Agency's interest in the commercial space launchers for small satellites."

When the ARION 2 launcher enters service on 2021, it will join the global fleet of launchers along with the ones from companies like the American Rocketlab and Virgin Orbit, which will cover the market demand for small satellites launches. A market that will by 2020 be worth over 5.5 billion Euros ($7 billion).

PLD Space is already operating from its new facilities located in the industrial park of Elche, where the company will soon install the first suborbital and orbital rocket production and assembly facility in this part of Europe. With this, Elche will become a European technology center, which will attract qualified talent from all aspects of spacecraft technology
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The Space Review: How long will the money keep flowing?

The Space Review: How long will the money keep flowing? | Space business and exploration |
In the last few years, space startups have benefitted from a flow of private investment that has grown from a trickle to at least a steady stream. Venture capitalists and other institutional investors once reticent to invest in space companies, because of market or other uncertainties, have opened their pocketbooks to fund a variety of companies. Firms like Planet and Spire have raised large sums of money to deploy their constellations of cubesats to collect imagery and other data, OneWeb has raised more than $1.5 billion for its broadband satellite constellation, and even launch vehicle companies, like Rocket Lab and Relativity, have raised money for vehicle development.
Whether the funding total is $2.5 billion or $3.9 billion or somewhere in between, it’s clear that investors are putting significant amounts of capital into space companies.

How much money the industry has raised depends on who does the counting. Space Angels, a group of individual “angel” investors focused on the space sector, said in a report last month that there was $3.9 billion of “non-government, equity investment flow” into space companies in 2017. A separate analysis by Seraphim Capital, a British fund that bills itself as the world’s first venture fund devoted to companies “operating in the space ecosystem,” calculated about $2.5 billion in investment in 2017.

Part of that difference is varying definitions of what constitutes a “space” company. Chad Anderson, CEO of Space Angels, said in an email last month that the Seraphim uses “a very broad definition of space which includes a number of frontier technologies, whether or not they have applications in space.” Such technologies, which range from the Internet of Things to artificial intelligence, could have space applications, and include investments in companies that Space Angels would not consider to be in the space field.

The biggest difference between the two figures is that Space Angels includes more than $1.9 billion in funding provided to Blue Origin in 2017 from its founder, Jeff Bezos, based on his sales of stock. While Bezos said last year that he sold $1 billion a year in Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin (see “Blue Origin’s status update”, The Space Review, April 10, 2017), there was no explicit link between the stock sales and Blue Origin based on regulatory filings or other public documents. Anderson said that “public statements, public filings, confidential conversations, and an internal estimate of development to-date and known development in progress” led Space Angels to include the figures in their annual report.

Mark Boggett, CEO of Seraphim Capital, said that his fund didn’t include any Bezos funding of Blue Origin in their statistics because, strictly speaking, it was not venture capital funding, the focus of their statistics. “Perhaps we should have at least noted it given its magnitude,” he said.
Bubble trouble

However, whether the funding total is $2.5 billion or $3.9 billion or somewhere in between, it’s clear that investors are putting significant amounts of capital into space companies, particularly when compared to the paucity of investment just a few years ago. The question many industry observers ask, though, is whether this pace of investment can be sustained. Or, in other words, is the space startup ecosystem a bubble in danger of bursting?

At the first Space Tech Summit, a conference held last month in San Mateo, California, that gathered space industry executives, startup founders, and investors, one of the speakers was Adam Draper, the founder and managing partner of Boost VC, a startup accelerator. The title of his talk was “Bubbles in Space,” which suggested he would tackle those concerns.

Not exactly. “I’ve taken probably 40 to 50 space-related tech pitches in the last three years. I’ve met these crazy-smart people,” he said. “I ask them all one question, and I say, ‘Can there be bubbles in space?’”

“Logically, this is an idiotic question,” he continued on stage, dressed in the Silicon Valley uniform of t-shirt and hoodie, complemented by pants in the same hue of orange as his company’s logo. “I get the best conversations out of this question, and we go on tangents that go for hours. And I’ve learned a lot about space.”

Later, when asked about bubbles of the financial kind, he took a contrarian view. Rather than being worried about too much money being invested in space companies, leading to an inevitable shakeout, he was worried that there was too little.
“I don’t think space can have a financial bubble right now. I don’t think enough money is going into space,” Draper said.

“The space industry is actually going to run into a problem right now for the earlier stage” of investment, he said. The technology that has attracted the most attention of late in Silicon Valley involves cryptocurrencies and blockchain. “Suddenly, all the money is pouring into crypto-related projects, so the space industry is trying to evolve.”

“I actually think money is moving away from everything in early stage and moving into crypto right now, so startups are trying to follow the money, and that’s the wrong way to go,” he advised. “I don’t think space can have a financial bubble right now. I don’t think enough money is going into space.”

It’s not clear that space companies are pivoting towards blockchain or cryptocurrencies, as Draper suggested. (There was a presentation at the two-day conference by SpaceChain, a venture that is working on those technologies, including placing a blockchain node in space on a Chinese smallsat launched last week.) Nonetheless, companies and investors are trying to figure out what is the next step for space companies.
No exit

As shown by the figures above, plenty of money has been flowing into space startups. However, so far there’s been little in the way of exits: investors getting their money back through acquisitions or by the companies going public.

The one big exit took place nearly four years ago, when Google bought Skybox Imaging, a company developing a constellation of high-resolution imaging satellites. Google paid a reported $500 million for Skybox, subsequently renamed Terra Bella. The deal was hailed as a milestone for space startups, and likely encouraged increased investment in those companies.

“Skybox is the only company right now to have a liquidation event,” said Tess Hatch, an investor at Bessemer Venture Partners, who invested in Skybox prior to its acquisition by Google and has also invested in Rocket Lab and Spire. “We think it’s a fruitful industry and will have a wonderful return on investment. But what are those scenarios going to be? Are they going to be acquired? Are they going to go public? How are these space startups going to take the next step?”

Moreover, that acquisition didn’t work out in the long run for Google, who last year sold Terra Bella to Planet for an undisclosed sum. In another panel at the conference, Mark Matossian, a senior program manager at Google who previously led the company’s aerospace-related initiatives, said it represented part of a broader change in direction at the Internet giant.

“Google is a company that is changing over time. It’s a very, very different company than it was when I joined 11 years ago,” he said. “The management is very different. The types of projects that we take on is changing.”
“We think it’s a fruitful industry and will have a wonderful return on investment. But what are those scenarios going to be?” Hatch asked.

He suggested, though, that Skybox/Terra Bella might not have offered a return on investment (ROI) sufficient to satisfy company executives. “If you’re going to have a capital-intensive program, like deploying a satellite constellation, you need a very clear ROI that works within the business case of that company,” he said. “Skybox got VC funding because people believed in the business plan. When it came to Google, we couldn’t pursue that business plan, because that involved renting out the satellite to customers. That didn’t really work for Google.”

Others also raised questions about just how good a return space companies might offer. “There is certainly a lot of great technology, and there’s certainly a lot of great ideas,” said Shahin Farshchi, partner at Lux Capital. “What’s missing is a level of rigor that’s applied to the return on these investments as it relates to them being operating companies.”

Space companies, he noted, often require large amounts of capital to develop their technologies or systems, like deploying a large satellite constellation. “There isn’t enough rigor that goes into understanding the IRR [internal rate of return] associated with the capital investment.”

Such ventures will have to compete with companies in other fields for funding, including those that have far smaller capital requirements. “If you are a project financier, a bank, a late-stage private equity firm, you’ll be weighing these kinds of projects against building strip malls, or building a cellular network in Africa, or any other kind of capital deployment opportunity,” he said. “If those numbers don’t add up, that IRR isn’t there, then it doesn’t make any sense.”
“2018 could be a decision year: it could be the rubber hits the road, or it could be the car plows into the wall,” Quilty said.

Something similar, Farshchi said, happened with “cleantech” companies several years ago. “Those companies could not demonstrate economics, so even when the technology was proven and mature, and the founders and early engineering teams did their parts, the economics just weren’t attractive,” he said. “Companies weren’t able to attract the next stage, the next level of capital.”

Another option for investor exits, an initial public offering (IPO) of stock, is also unlikely. “Congress and regulators have made it really expensive to be a public company,” said Chris Quilty, president of Quilty Analytics. “I would like to see more companies going public.”

Some investors saw no urgency for companies to seek IPOs or other exits. “There’s plenty of capital out there. I don’t see the IPO window opening at all,” said Mike Collett, managing partner at Promus Ventures, which has invested in Rocket Lab and Spire. “These companies require a lot of cash, as long as you can continue to show revenue. And that’s the key part here: the market is looking for revenue, especially in the later stage.”

Investors at the conference said they’re seeing more VC firms make investments in space companies, and more people get involved in space startups in general, despite the uncertain exit strategies and returns. “That only is possible when complexity is abstracted away in many ways,” said Sunil Nagaraj, managing partner of Ubiquity Ventures and formerly with Bessemer, where he was involved in that firm’s space investments. “As more of that happens, I get happier.”

“The next massively successful space company probably won’t even be founded, or coined, as a space company, but will derive value by virtue of creating opportunity and capitalizing on the opportunities in space,” said Farshchi. “Someone will come up with a great business where space will be an important piece of that.”

For those startups that have already raised money and are developing their launch vehicles, satellites or other space-related products and services, this could be a key year. “I think 2018 is going to be kind of an interesting year,” said Quilty, citing the introduction of new small launch vehicles and satellite constellations. “2018 could be a decision year: it could be the rubber hits the road, or it could be the car plows into the wall.”
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These 5 industries will be first to do business in space

These 5 industries will be first to do business in space | Space business and exploration |
Companies around the world - in transportation, exploration, energy, construction or hospitality - are all looking upwards for the next growth opportunity. Space is quickly becoming a place where the industries that power our global economy will conduct business.

What do we call an economic area like this, that is not limited to a single planet, and no longer has physical boundaries? We can't call it an industry, when private industrial groups can generate revenue and profit not only from the Earth but from near-Earth asteroids (NEAs), the Moon and Mars and beyond. It is simply a medium in which humanity conducts commerce.

Let’s take a look at the industry sectors that will be the first to take advantage of our expanded economic sphere, and some of the specific opportunities for growth.


Valued at over $8.4 trillion and growing at a 4.1% compound annual growth rate, energy is the largest industry on Earth.

Humans are prolific energy consumers, and soon there will be more humans in space.

Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon, anticipates “millions of people living and working in space” in the coming decades. Bezos is so confident of this outcome that he is investing more than $1 billion per year into his space transportation firm, Blue Origin. An in-space population of this magnitude will require enormous amounts of energy to live, work, and transit. This energy will come from solar power, which is more effective when gathered in space due to the lack of a filtering atmosphere; and chemical rockets, which will be the primary transportation mechanism for the foreseeable future.

The most efficient chemical rocket propellants are composed of cryogenic liquid oxygen combined with liquid hydrogen or methane. Initially, the propellant needed to fuel the space economy will be launched from Earth, as both the United Launch Alliance (a joint-venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing) and SpaceX have proposed to do in the near future. However, there is a much more attractive way to source the propellants needed to support a sustained human presence in space: mining it.


The global mining industry has tumbled in recent years from a market value of more than $1.6 trillion in 2010, to $714 billion in 2016, but this may change quickly once the “global” definition of mining is transformed by the emerging space resource industry.

Space resources can be extracted from celestial bodies, most notably asteroids and the Moon. Goldman Sachs released a report earlier this year that declared asteroid mining is more realistic than perceived, with costs “comparable to traditional mines”. The Goldman report also noted that “while the psychological barrier to mining asteroids is high, the actual financial and technological barriers are far lower.”

The Government of Luxembourg believes so strongly in this emerging industry it recently created the $227 million Space Resoruces initiative to establish Luxembourg as a European hub for space resources. Its aim is to contribute to the peaceful exploration and sustainable utilization of space resources for the benefit of humankind. Space mining activities will initially focus on water and water-derived propellants to enable in-space infrastructure. Once this propellant is readily available, companies will begin sourcing structural metals for construction projects and eventually precious metals needed for in-space manufacturing or possibly for return to Earth.
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The most important resource that will be mined in space is water.

Water is critical for all life-support functions in space: sustenance, hygiene, and food production. Water can serve as an effective shield from the dangerous radiation present in space. Water is also the single most important feedstock for in-space refineries, which will produce rocket propellants for sale to transportation providers.

Making propellants available beyond Earth’s gravitational influence will lead to the creation of the first in-space superhighway – a series of fuel depots placed in strategic locations throughout the solar system.

Imagine the growth potential of the energy, mining, and refining industries once they are freed from the constraints of an economy that is limited only to Earth. The in-space transportation and logistics firms who will consume these products are already well established and are headed by titans of industry: Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), Elon Musk (SpaceX), Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), and Tory Bruno (United Launch Alliance). The door is now open to in-space mining firms like Planetary Resources (backed by industrial giant Bechtel and the Government of Luxembourg) to capture this increasingly important market by providing water and water-based propellants to the space transportation industry.


Today, the global construction industry competes with the energy industry for the title of the world’s largest industry, and this rivalry will continue in space. The first orbital construction systems will be deployed before the end of the decade. These robotic spacecraft will be capable of assembling large structures in orbit and repairing or refueling existing satellites. When combined with zero-gravity additive manufacturing techniques, this enables construction systems which can “print” and assemble massive structures in the medium of space. The future of construction in space will look nothing like it does on Earth, but it will be equally valuable because the techniques and service offerings will apply across the entire in-space value chain. A propellant refinery can be assembled on orbit. Asteroid mines can be repaired autonomously. Solar power plants can be massively scaled and upgraded to meet the requirements of almost any project.

Hospitality and real estate

Humans can only live, work and play in space if they have shelter from the harsh environment of space. Today, the International Space Station (ISS) has had a sustained human presence for over 10 years, but this too will soon change.

Numerous commercial space station companies, including one created by billionaire hotel-chain-founder Robert Bigelow, are competing for lucrative contracts that range from supporting sovereign astronauts and high-net-worth tourists, to leasing space-in-space for orbital manufacturing and research and development programmes. This new industry is anticipated to generate $37 billion in the next decade alone.

Space habitats will be launched from Earth initially, but as the resource supply chain expands and metals from asteroids and the Moon become available, this sector will also come to rely on resources sourced from space. Construction firms will combine high-quality metallic feedstocks with robotic orbital assembly fleets as we gain the ability to create orbital megastructures: hotels, factories, and permanent settlements that are no longer limited by size. The first cities in space will become possible as markets for real-estate on orbit emerge. Space will become affordable and profitable for developers.

Our global economy is limited by its very name. When we realize that Earth’s economy is only the beginning, our concept of growth changes exponentially. For industrial firms who have the foresight to view space not as a stand-alone industry but as the next medium to conduct their business, the sky is not the limit. The only limitations are the ones we put on ourselves.

The authors are members of the Global Future Council on Space Technologies.
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La Chine accélère sa conquête spatiale

La Chine accélère sa conquête spatiale | Space business and exploration |
L'agence spatiale chinoise a annoncé 35 lancements pour 2018, afin de réaliser au plus vite ses grandes ambitions dans l'espace.

En 2017, SpaceX, la firme aérospatiale d'Elon Musk, a lancé 18 fusées , détrônant Arianespace de la place de leader.

Mais en 2018, la Chine en prévoit 35, soit l'activité aérospatiale la plus dense de son histoire. C'est l'agence spatiale chinoise, la China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation (CASC) qui l'a annoncé à l'agence de presse Xinhua, mercredi 3 janvier. La sonde lunaire Chang'e-4, la fusée porteuse Longue Marche-5, dont le lancement avait échoué en juillet dernier, ainsi que 18 satellites équipés du système de navigation BeiDou-3, seront envoyés dans l'espace.
Un Rover chinois sur Mars en 2020

En décembre 2016, le gouvernement chinois avait publié un livre blanc précisant le programme spatial pour les cinq années suivantes, et en premier lieu, l'exploration de Mars. Les puissances aérospatiales, à l'exception de la Russie, se précipiteront sur la planète rouge en 2020, chacun ayant annoncé le lancement d'un Rover, le véhicule d'exploration utilisé sur Mars.
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L'agence spatiale chinoise a en outre annoncé en novembre dernier des objectifs à plus long terme. Fini le rattrapage technologique face aux autres géants de l'espace, la Chine veut prendre de l'avance dans les centrales solaires orbitales et le tourisme spatial. La CASC, dans la feuille de route qu'elle a dévoilé au quotidien « Global Times », annonce le projet d'une navette spatiale à propulsion nucléaire d'ici 2040. Cette technologie permettrait un temps de trajet plus court vers Mars ou la Lune, voire pour explorer d'autres planètes.
« La Ceinture et la Route »

La Chine est le deuxième pays du monde en termes de satellites opérationnels (204), loin derrière les Etats-Unis (803), au 31 août 2017 selon the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) . Mais elle possédera en 2020 une couverture satellitaire globale, similaire au GPS américain et au Galileo européen, une fois que l'ensemble de ses satellites équipés du système BeiDou-2 sera en fonction.

Alors que la troisième génération de satellites GPS (Etats-Unis) ne sera achevée qu'en 2030, 25 satellites chinois équipés de BeiDou-3 seront déjà envoyés à la fin de l'année 2018 si le calendrier chinois est respecté. Justification de cet empressement : apporter un appui au développement économique dans l'intérieur eurasien, dans le cadre de « La Ceinture et la Route » , le projet entrepris par Xi Jinping en 2013. Les nouveaux satellites élargiraient les services de navigation et faciliteraient les moyens de communication dans les pays traversés par la « nouvelle route de la soie ».
Moins cher mais moins fiable

Conséquence de cette accélération, plus elle améliore sa technologie, plus la Chine devient compétitive pour vendre des équipements ou compétences. L'Algérie, après avoir formé ses ingénieurs en Chine, a envoyé dans l'espace en décembre dernier son premier satellite de communication, lancé par une fusée chinoise.

L'agence spatiale a aussi révélé qu'il travaillait avec le Brésil sur un satellite commun, dont le lancement par une fusée chinoise est prévu en 2019. Les pays émergents, qui ont besoin de réseaux de communication et satellitaires performants pour soutenir leur croissance, pourraient emboîter le pas à moyen terme : la fusée Longue Marche-5 est plus puissante et moins chère que son équivalent européen Ariane 5.

Reste à rassurer les prétendants sur la fiabilité et la sécurité : les lancements des fusées chinoises connaissent un taux d'échec supérieur à ses concurrents. Pis, en mars prochain, des débris de la première station spatiale chinoise Tiangong-1 s'écraseront sur Terre, après que les autorités ont perdu son contrôle, en septembre 2016.
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